Clouds and Eclipses: The Collected Short Stories

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9780786718108: Clouds and Eclipses: The Collected Short Stories

Celebrated for more than fifty years as a world-renowned novelist, essayist, and political figure and commentator, Gore Vidal is less known for the exquisitely crafted short fiction he wrote as a young man. Like the work of Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams, his stories have been overshadowed by the author's triumphs writing in other genres. Still, Vidal's short fiction offers us a portrait of the young artist in the 1940s and 1950s. His subtle and comic tales often center on adolescence and homosexual themes. In Three Stratagems, a middle-aged gay man encounters a male prostitute while vacationing in Key West. In The Zenner Trophy, the star athlete at an elite boys school is expelled for sexual relations with a classmate. These stories were gathered along with five others into a 1956 volume, A Thirsty Evil, and for decades were thought to comprise Vidal's complete short fiction.

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About the Author:

Gore Vidal is the author of twenty-two novels, five screenplays, more than two hundred essays, and a memoir. Winner of the National Book Award for United Sates: essays 1952-92, Vidal lives in Los Angeles.

From Publishers Weekly:

The rediscovery of the previously unpublished title work is the occasion for collecting Vidal's short stories—all eight of them—for the first time. That piece, which closes the collection, features an episode from Tennessee Williams's childhood in which the young playwright decides to pre-empt sin through suicide, a decision complicated by knowledge that his uncle is being blackmailed for sexual misconduct with a minor. Discretion kept this story from Vidal's 1956 collection A Thirsty Evil, but it's clearly continuous with the seven others, many of which also contain homoerotic elements and a tone of tart disillusion: in "Three Stratagems," a suave young man suffers an epileptic seizure before he can sell his body; in "The Zenner Trophy," a prep school athlete is expelled for an affair with a male classmate. Mortality and shades of E.B. White's famous distortions of time enter as well, as a middle-aged man runs into himself as a boy ("A Moment of Green Laurel"), and another spends a night in his childhood bedroom ("The Ladies in the Library"). Vidal's short-form execution is strangely ineffective: he often locates action off the page, then labors to bring the information into the story cleanly. But readers will recognize the frosty vision and frequently artful prose of the essayist of United States and the novelist of Myra Breckinridge. (Sept.)
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