Gore Vidal was at best a snob, at worst a snot, depending on how you assess his patronizing demeanor. He looked and sounded patrician, but stopped short of being a dandy (witness his perennial gray pants and blue blazer). He was, however, a lot of other things, as two new biographies attest.

They are Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal by Jay Parini, his friend and literary executor, a responsible, solidly researched, traditional biography; and Michael Mewshaw’s Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship, breezier, sassier, more anecdotal. Taken together, as they should be, they constitute a fully rounded portrait of a witty, trenchant, mischievous, talented but often superficial and arrogant writer and man.

Compelling essayist but uneven fictionist, he did also have his good sides:...


A Message from the Editors

Since 1982, The New Criterion has nurtured and safeguarded our delicate cultural inheritance. Join our family of supporters and secure the future of civilization.

Popular Right Now