Email this review


Eight novels brought a measure of recognition to Vidal in the postwar period, but he joined the march to television and the sour aftertaste of disillusion pervades every essay in this collection of pieces he has written for The Reporter, The Nation, and similar periodicals. His writing seethes with the artist's hungry yearning for a better society, a better way of life for all mankind in general and creative artists particular. Yearnings, however, are not enough to arm one for the political arena in which society's practical problems may be solved. Vidal's recent unsuccessful race for a seat in Congress embittered him still more, and he feels bound to inject contemporary political aphorisms even into those articles ostensibly devoted to other matters. None of the six essays on politics is an well-informed as the six on the theater of the fourteen on books-and-authors; the four biographical essays and his various notes on hindsight on the motives for writing these things in the first place explain why this is true. His position may be likened to that of Gluseppe Verdl, in whom the longing for Italian unity flamed brightly but who showed up wretchedly in politics and was best equipped to implement his hopes by proper use of his talents as a composer-dramatist. The Hebrews' Chorus will endure, and so may The Best Man; Vidal is a lively critic of literature, and as such offers us something to think about -- but when he applies himself to a declarative search for the road to economic and political salvation, he exposes conflicts he has not yet resolved for himself and therefore cannot hope to resolve for society.

Pub Date: July 24th, 1962
Publisher: Little, Brown