Novelist, television personality, political candidate, and maverick social commentator, Gore Vidal is one of the most innovative, influential, and enduring American intellectuals of the past fifty years. In How to Be an Intellectual in the Age of TV, Marcie Frank provides a concise introduction to Vidal’s life and work as she argues that the twentieth-century shift from print to electronic media, particularly TV and film, has not only loomed large in Vidal’s thought but also structured his career. Looking at Vidal’s prolific literary output, Frank shows how he has reflected explicitly on this subject at every turn: in essays on politics, his book on Hollywood and history, his reviews and interviews, and topical excursions within the novels. At the same time, she traces how he has repeatedly crossed the line supposedly separating print and electronic culture, perhaps with more success than any other American intellectual. He has written television serials and screenplays, appeared in movies, and regularly appeared on television, most famously in heated arguments with Norman Mailer on The Dick Cavett Show and with William F. Buckley during ABC’s coverage of the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
Frank highlights the connections between Vidal’s attitudes toward TV, sex, and American politics as they have informed his literary and political writings and screen appearances. She deftly situates his public persona in relation to those of Andy Warhol, Jacqueline Susann, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, and others. By describing Vidal’s shrewd maneuvering between different media, Frank suggests that his career offers a model to aspiring public intellectuals and a refutation to those who argue that electronic media have eviscerated public discourse.
On the battlefields of World War II, with their fellow soldiers as the only shield between life and death, a generation of American men found themselves connecting with each other in new and profound ways. Back home after the war, however, these intimacies faced both scorn and vicious homophobia. The Mourning After makes sense of this cruel irony, telling the story of the unmeasured toll exacted upon generations of male friendships. John Ibson draws evidence from the contrasting views of male closeness depicted in WWII-era fiction by Gore Vidal and John Horne Burns, as well as from such wide-ranging sources as psychiatry texts, child development books, the memoirs of veterans’ children, and a slew of vernacular snapshots of happy male couples. In this sweeping reinterpretation of the postwar years, Ibson argues that a prolonged mourning for tenderness lost lay at the core of midcentury American masculinity, leaving far too many men with an unspoken ache that continued long after the fighting stopped, forever damaging their relationships with their wives, their children, and each other.
Williwaw: A Novel
Gore Vidal University of Chicago Press, 2003 Library of Congress PS3543.I26W5 2003 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
A gripping tale of men struggling against nature and themselves, Williwaw was Gore Vidal's first novel, written at nineteen when he was first mate of the U.S. Army freight supply ship stationed in the Aleutian Islands. Here he writes of a ship caught plying the lethal, frigid Arctic waters during storm season. Tensions run high among the edgy crew and uneasy passengers even before the cruel wind that gives the book its title suddenly sweeps down from the mountains. Vividly drawn characters and a compelling murder plot combine to make Williwaw a classic war novel.