Review

This is a collection of 4 interviews with Gore Vidal, from 1986 through 2007. They mostly cover the same ground, and he tends to give roughly similar answers to the same questions, with slight variations over time.

Vidal was an immensely intelligent man, and was among the first to recognize and portray the United States as an empire - a term that earned him scorn from the establishment press at the time (the 50s and 60s), but which is now a commonplace. He also coined the term “national security state” back in the early 80s - another term that is now generally recognized as descriptive of our government but which was, then, subjected to derision and contempt.

He was born into a wealthy and politically connected family, which only partly explains his early access to notable politicians and artists in the early postwar period. He wrote his first two books when he was 19 and 20 while in the US army, receiving favorable reviews from the New York Times. But when he published The City and the Pillar, about the life of a gay man, he was placed on the New York Times shitlist, and never again received a favorable review from them. Which tells us a great deal more about the Times than it does about Gore Vidal.

He became left-wing by degrees, after starting as an America Firster while at Exeter. By 1968 he had recognized the American empire for what it was, and his trajectory to the left by then was irreversible. He had access to all the main political players during the 60s, and knew that the trumped-up fears about the USSR were only for public consumption, a way to advance the interests of what he would eventually term the national security state. That sort of knowledge is bound to make anyone a bit cynical. And he early on recognized the criminality and utter pointlessness of the Vietnam war, before opposition to the war was popular. He maintained his principled ant-war stance to the end, even breaking off his friendship with Christopher Hitchens because of the latter’s support for the invasion of Iraq.

In short - an interesting read.

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Metadata Info

  • Title: I Told You So: Gore Vidal Talks Politics
  • Author: Gore Vidal
  • Published: 2012
  • ISBN: ****
  • Buy: Amazon search
  • Check out: Seattle library
  • Rating: 4.0 stars