GORE VIDAL is one of those writers who always challenges, excites, and stirs up my thinking. While I do not fully endorse all of the views in "THE LAST EMPIRE: ESSAYS 1992-2000", I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. He is one of the best.
In terms of clarity of thought and analysis, Gore writes on subjects as varied as Sinclair Lewis, Mark Twain, JFK, FDR, Truman, Charles Lindbergh, John Updike (one of the funniest, most thoughtful and scathing essays in the book), "bad history", race relations, and the U.S. political system.
Here are two examples of the passion and conviction Vidal brings to this book:
1) "...I invite the Senate to contemplate Vice President Aaron Burr's farewell to the body over which he himself had so ably presided: 'This house is a sanctuary, a citadel of law, of order, and of liberty; and it is here in this exalted refuge; here, if anywhere, will resistance be made to the storm of political frenzy and the silent arts of corruption; and if the Constitution be destined ever to perish by the sacrilegious hands of the demagogue or the usurper, which God avert, its expiring agonies will be witnessed on this floor.' Do no harm to this state, Conscript Fathers." (essay on 'Birds and Bees and Clinton')
2) "What will the next four years bring? With luck, total gridlock. ... With bad luck (and adventures), Chancellor Cheney will rule. A former Secretary of Defense, he has said that too little money now goes to the Pentagon even though last year it received 51 percent of the discretionary budget. Expect a small war or two in order to keep military appropriations flowing. There will also be tax relief for the very rich. But bad scenario or good scenario, we shall see very little of the charmingly simian George W. Bush. The military - Cheney, Powell, et al. - will be calling the tune, and the whole nation will be on constant alert, for, James Baker has already warned us, Terrorism is everywhere on the march. We cannot be too vigilant. Welcome to Asuncion. Yes! We have no bananas."
The Nation 8/15 January 2001 (Essay on 'Democratic Vistas')
No matter what one may think of Gore Vidal, his writings will always engage and challenge the reader to think, and think, and think. And learn.