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GORE VIDAL: A LATTER-DAY OSCAR WILDE & ONE OF AMERICA'S GREATEST WRITERS

In Bed with Gore Vidal - Tim Teeman

This is one of the most cogent and well-written books about Gore Vidal that I've yet read. It sheds considerable light on his personal life, philosophy, and thoughts on a host of subjects. Gore Vidal, for those of us who have read deeply of his works, watched him debate his critics or hold court on TV over the decades and dazzle his audiences with his wit and supreme intellect, was a larger-than-life force on the world stage. Mr. Teeman is to be congratulated for the amount of work he put into this, his debut book, as well as for interviewing scores of people who knew Gore Vidal best (e.g. his half sister Nina Straight and nephew Burr Steers; and the actresses Joanne Woodward, Claire Bloom, and Susan Sarandon). 

For me, as a long-time Gore Vidal fan, this book was heady stuff. Sobering, too, because this book made me acutely aware of Vidal's emotional side, which helps to explain what a complex figure he was. Acerbic, funny, and a master mimic. (These qualities I witnessed first-hand in September 2000, when I went to see Vidal speak at the Smithsonian and later had the honor of having him autograph my copy of his last novel, "THE GOLDEN AGE.") And for those people who were lucky enough to win his trust and respect and be counted among his closest friends, they were granted access to the Gore Vidal who had a big heart and gave financial support to friends who had fallen upon hard times. 

While Gore Vidal was with us, I gave little thought to his private life. To be truthful, I wasn't particularly curious about it, for his public persona engaged my full attention and interest. 

Novelist, award-winning playwright, social critic, political activist, Hollywood scriptwriter, and one of the greatest essayists of the last century, Gore Vidal bestrode the world like a Colossus. What saddened me in reading this book was learning how sad and tragic the last few years of Vidal's life were, as he battled illness, alcoholism, and coming to terms with the death (in 2003) of his longtime companion, Howard Austen, with whom he shared a full, rich, and engaging life (in the U.S. and Italy) for 53 years. 

For Gore Vidal fans and other readers who want to understand the man and his legacy, this book comes highly recommended