I Told You So: Gore Vidal Talks Politics: Interviews with Jon Wiener

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9781619021747: I Told You So: Gore Vidal Talks Politics: Interviews with Jon Wiener
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I exist to say, No, that isn’t the way it is,’ or What you believe to be true is not true for the following reasons.’ I am a master of the obvious. I mean, if there’s a hole in the road, I will, viciously, outrageously, say there’s a hole in the road and if you don’t fill it in you’ll break the axle of your car. One is not loved for being helpful.”

Gore Vidal, one of America’s foremost essayists, screenwriters, and novelists, died July 31, 2012. He was, in addition, a terrific conversationalist. Dick Cavett once described him as the best talker since Oscar Wilde.” And Vidal was never more eloquent, or caustic, than when let loose on his favorite topic, the history and politics of the United States.

This book is made up from four interviews conducted with his long-time interlocutor, the writer and radio host Jon Wiener, in which Vidal grapples with matters evidently close to his heart: the history of the American Empire, the rise of the National Security State, and his own life in politics, both as a commentator and candidate.

The interviews cover a twenty-year span, from 1988 to 2008, when Vidal was at the height of his powers. His extraordinary facility for developing an argument, tracing connections between past and present, and drawing on an encyclopedic knowledge of America’s place in the world, are all on full display. And, of course, it being Gore Vidal, an ample sprinkling of gloriously acerbic one-liners is also provided.

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About the Author:

Gore Vidal (1925–2012) was the author of numerous novels, short stories, plays, screenplays and essays. A winner of the National Book Award, he was also a tireless political activist and, running as Democratic candidate for Congress in upstate New York, received more votes for that district than any Democrat in a half-century.

Jon Wiener is a contributing editor to The Nation and a professor of history at the University of California at Irvine. He is the author of How We Forgot the Cold War: A Historical Journey across America, Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files, and Professors, Politics and Pop, and the editor (with Tom Hayden) of Conspiracy in the Streets.

From Booklist:

Marking the first anniversary (July 31) of Vidal’s death, at age 86, Weiner—a University of California at Irvine history professor, Nation contributing editor, and Pacifica Radio host—gathers four of his many interviews with the outspoken novelist, essayist, screenwriter, and occasional political candidate, whom TV talk-show host Dick Cavett dubbed “the best talker since Oscar Wilde.” The interviews travel back in time: Weiner chats with Vidal at the 2007 Los Angeles Festival of Books, at a 2006 session of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities, and at the Plaza Hotel during the “shadow convention” lampooning the 2000 Democratic Convention. The volume’s fourth conversation was Weiner’s initial, 1988 encounter with the acerbic author of “Tales of Empire,” Myra Breckinridge, The Best Man, and The City and the Pillar: an interview at Vidal’s Ravello, Italy, home that was originally published in Radical History Review. One need not share Vidal’s often contentious political preoccupations to welcome this return of Vidal’s inimitably confident, never remotely tentative “voice.” Essential for libraries where Vidal’s novels and nonfiction are popular. --Mary Carroll

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