I enjoyed the first volume of Vidal’s memoirs, Palimpsest. So this was a natural progression. He is funny and acerbic and is, based on both books, one of the best connected and most intellectual people in America. The text is enhanced by some good photographs of people, which lend credibility to some of his more spectacular name drops. A typical passage would be “I only met Barack Obama once, when he came to seek my advice on public speaking and to consult me on a very obscure aspect of Democratic party politics. He was droll and clearly gifted but an extrapolator, not an interpreter.” There is a lot of that sort of thing. He tells how the last time he saw Jackie Kennedy was in a lift in a Paris hotel, when she cut him dead. Perhaps she didn’t recognise him – but that would not have been conceivable for Gore Vidal.
The best parts of the book are about his lifetime partner, Howard Auster, and his death. And his enjoyment of life in Italy, at their house in Ravello.
It feels a little bit disjointed, like memories plucked out and recounted if not at random, then with only loose connections. But he is a good companion and has had a fascinating life. I might try one of his novels. He has been a prolific writer of novels, sceeenplays and other works and he has seen a lot of life.
It does not feel like the most consequential of memoirs; but is entertaining.