June 29, 2020

This explosively entertaining memoir abounds in gossip, satire, historical apercus , and trenchant observations. Vidal’s compelling narrative. Vidal’s account of his first 39 years includes his reminiscences of a host of prominent Gore Vidal, Author Penguin Books $20 (p) ISBN Aside from being an essayist, novelist and screenwriter, Gore Vidal in his memoir Palimpsest that he was “attracted to adolescent males”.

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Biography and memoirsAutobiography,,, AmericasNorth AmericaUSA. It is to be found in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington.

Christopher Hitchens reviews ‘Palimpsest’ by Gore Vidal · LRB 19 October

And there in the grass is palimpsesh stone slab, bearing the names and dates of birth of Vidal and his lifelong companion Howard Austen. The hyphens that come after the years and respectively lie like little marble asps, waiting to keep their dates.

Who knows what decided the cemetery authorities to advertise their prospective clients in this way?

Elsewhere among the crosses and headstones one may find Upton Sinclair, Nobel laureate and defeated Socialist candidate for the governorship of California, Alice Warfield Mien mother of Wallis Simpson and Alice Roosevelt Longworth, grande dame of Washington dynastic bitchery. She had a motto emblazoned on her sofa-cushion in Georgetown: And all goer seems fitting for Vidal: Or is it so fitting?

On palimpsset thoughts, is not Vidal a natural for the Protestant cemetery in Rome, hard by Keats and Shelley and Gramsci and Labriola, and sheltered, in serene pagan and Mediterranean style, by the pyramid of Sestius? What is an exile cosmopolitan doing in this Wasp rockery in the District of Columbia?


The following passage in the confessedly autobiographical Two Sisterspublished a quarter of a century ago, supplies one clue.

Death, summer, youth — this triad contrives to haunt me every day of my life for it vidla in summer that my generation left school for war, and several dozen that one knew but strictly speaking, did not love, except perhaps for one were killed, and so never lived to know what I have known — the Beatles, black power, the Administration of Richard Nixon — all this has taken place in a trivial after-time and has nothing to do with anything that really mattered, with summer and palimpsestt hardly remembered, a youth so abruptly translated from vivid, well-loved if briefly flesh to a few scraps of bone and cartilage scattered among the volcanic rocks of Iwo Jima.

A couple of years ago, Vidal dropped another hint in an article looking back on the Pacific War. He said that he gave way to emotion on hearing, even now, the song that goes:. And then, going back almost to the beginning, there was the matter of those initials on the dedication page of The City and the Pillar. And here the quest is over. Palimpsest fills in the blanks. For half a century, Gore Vidal has been living selfishly and hedonistically, because all this time he has been living for two.

It is via the Jimmy Trimble romance that the madeleine of these memoirs is unwrapped, and it is with that incomplete or uncompleted palimpsesy that it closes. Along the way, it is the thread of Ariadne in the narrative.

Vidal has written often and well about himself and others. In fact, he has written better. The chief enchantment of this book has not to papimpsest with the celebrated dust-ups between himself and Mailer, himself and Capote, himself and Tennessee Williams, or himself and Palimpswst Buckley.


We come to understand how divided a self he is; not just as between love and death but as between literature and politics, America and the world, the ancient and the modern, the sacred and the profane. And we get the goods not just about his sex life, but about his sexual nature. To get the beastliness out of the way first, then. In his rather sere and melancholy condition, Vidal tells some old stories rather less well than he recounted palimpesst the first time.

Palimpsest: A Memoir

Of a disastrous visit to Cambridge, provoked by an invitation from E. Forster that had been meant for Tennessee Williams:. The full text of this book review is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.

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