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Palimpsest: A Memoir (1995)

por Gore Vidal

MembrosCríticasPopularidadeAvaliação médiaMenções
1,0861419,076 (3.98)26
This explosively entertaining memoir abounds in gossip, satire, historical apercus, and trenchant observations. Vidal's compelling narrative weaves back and forth in time, providing a whole view of the author's celebrated life, from his birth in 1925 to today, and features a cast of memorable characters--including the Kennedy family, Marlon Brando, Anais Nin, and Eleanor Roosevelt.… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 14 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
A thoroughly nasty, but very enjoyable, memoir, in which Gore Vidal shamelessly and wittily takes the opportunity to settle scores with numerous well-known people who aren't around any more to answer back, whilst at the same time doing his best to impress us with how many of the great and famous he has rubbed shoulders with at one time or another. I frequently felt uncomfortable about laughing out loud at this book, but it was hard not to.

Lots of vitriol is directed at his mother; at the Kennedys (he shared a stepfather with Jackie); at the US literary establishment, which he accuses of blacklisting him after the publication of The city and the pillar with its explicit same-sex love story; at Truman Capote (accused of being short); at President Truman's "national security state" (fair enough); at European cinema for its deluded notion that directors are more important than writers; at Charlton Heston; at Hillary Clinton (insufficiently impressed at meeting him); at the English royal family (dim); and at just about everyone else who appears in the book, with the minor exceptions of Tennessee Williams, who is only mildly teased, and Vidal's grandfather Senator T P Gore, who can do no wrong. ( )
  thorold | Oct 15, 2023 |
Let’s talk about name-dropping. It’s often the mark of the social climber, those who seek to inflate their importance by appearing on the margins of the lives of people more interesting than they. It’s never in good taste, is it? Then there is the closely related phenomenon, gossip. Tacky, right?
Gore Vidal’s memoir, Palimpsest, abounds in both, yet this reader never felt that Vidal ever lacked a sense of his right to be exactly where he was, even the White House. While his own life didn’t lack achievement—and he makes sure to include mention of his best-selling books and theater and film triumphs—these things seem to interest him less than the people he’s been able to observe at close range, beginning with his senator grandfather and his step-sister Jackie (“whose boyish beauty and life-enhancing malice were a great joy to me”), but including Eleanor Roosevelt, Marlon Brando, the Kennedys, the Windsors, Princess Margaret (“far too bright for her station in life”), Tennessee Williams, good friends Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and rivals like Norman Mailer. Of course, Vidal might question the term rivals. He would concede that Mailer and others saw him as a rival but denies being envious of anyone else’s success. Well, that may be so; nonetheless, Vidal does use the book to settle some scores, particularly with Truman Capote, whom he pays the left-handed compliment of possessing an inventive imagination, only to lament that he never used it in his attempts to write fiction.
Readers of Vidal’s essays (he was one of the best twentieth-century practitioners of that form) will also recognize some of his recurrent themes, such as his rejection of the auteur school of film criticism. Great films from the Hollywood studios, with few exceptions, owed more to producer and screenwriter than to the director, he asserts. Not that the creation of great movies was the goal. One of Vidal’s bon mots characterized film-making as doing well what shouldn’t be done at all.
Another of Vidal’s recurrent themes is his depiction of the U. S. as the National Security State. He recounts how slowly he came to this realization, despite living in Guatemala when the CIA engineered a coup at the behest of the United Fruit Company.
Despite the name-dropping and the gossip, this book lacks a third feature of many memoirs: there is little kiss and tell. Instead, Vidal is more at pains to set the record straight on those he didn’t sleep with, despite reports to the contrary, beginning with Anaïs Nin. And even if he wanted to name those he slept with, he wouldn’t be able to in most cases: his preferred form of sexual activity was the anonymous one-night stand. The exception haunts the entire story, the schoolmate who died on Iwo Jima and remained the love of Vidal’s life.
To the Elizabethans, it was the play. In the enlightenment, the essay. In the nineteenth century, it was the novel. Vidal was a master of all of these archaic forms. In our day, it is the memoir. With Palimpsest, Vidal produced a masterpiece of this genre as well. Perhaps its quality is due in part to paradox abounding. Vidal avers, “I am not social,” yet his company seems to have been sought out by people who had many others to choose from. He protests the past doesn’t interest him yet writes of it in a way that interests us. One more thing that sets this apart from many other memoirs and is one of the many ways the title, Palimpsest, is well-chosen: Vida repeatedly lets the present intrude. He records where he is as he writes, with details of the weather, his blood pressure, and the research process of finding people he last saw fifty years previously. All of this is told with the elegance and wit one expects from Gore Vidal. An excellent read. ( )
1 vote HenrySt123 | Feb 17, 2022 |
We live in a time where it's difficult, if not impossible, to know what is true and what isn't. A perfect time to read Gore Vidal's memoir of the first half of his life. A wild, privileged, inner sanctum life. To be handed everything, and yet, still feel great pain and competitiveness for not being considered 'top of the mountain'. Fascinating.
( )
  mortalfool | Jul 10, 2021 |
His voice can be heard so clearly in his writing. I know I have read this book at least once before but I am surprised by how familiar his life's details are to me. I think I would say that this is one of the, now dead, people of history that I would have liked to meet. As a reader of Bloomsbury and the intersecting English circles of writers, painters, bright young things and aristocrats, it is exciting to read this book as Gore name drops his way through all of these people whose writings I have read, whose biographies I have read. As a result of reading this book again, I bought two new biographies of people he mentions that had connection to people I have already read about. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and, despite it being a hardcover, found myself underlining passages. ( )
  Karen74Leigh | Jan 13, 2020 |
I thought I had read Vidal's memoir some years ago but was not sure; as I began reading, I knew I had not read it. Vidal is witty, and often thought-provoking; his gossip is both vicious and delicious, but the real reason to read this memoir is not what he has to say about literary figures or politicians he as known but instead his reflections on a host of subjects: anonymity and fame, love and sex, literature versus popular culture, and more. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this first volume of memoirs. ( )
1 vote nmele | Aug 21, 2019 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 14 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
In his rather sere and melancholy condition, Vidal tells some old stories rather less well than he recounted them the first... The finest and most revealing passages in Palimpsest, those which best synthesise the public and the personal, are the ones which treat of the Kennedy court. It’s a test of character whether one repudiates Camelot or not, and Vidal passes this test with all pennons flying.
adicionada por SnootyBaronet | editarLondon Review of Books, Christopher Hitchens
The reader feels right there, with it and in it; and so effective is the superimposed ripple of Vidal's style and personality (the palimpsest at work?) that a kind of innocence of absurdity-as with the marmalade jar-easily mingles with an effortless and knowing sophistication. Brought so fascinatingly close to us, the Vidal world seems both exotic and domestic, glitzy and homely, and is presented with a deft economy that is itself highly droll.
adicionada por SnootyBaronet | editarNew York Review of Books, John Bayley
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This explosively entertaining memoir abounds in gossip, satire, historical apercus, and trenchant observations. Vidal's compelling narrative weaves back and forth in time, providing a whole view of the author's celebrated life, from his birth in 1925 to today, and features a cast of memorable characters--including the Kennedy family, Marlon Brando, Anais Nin, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

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