Empire
by Gore Vidal

This story is written from an omnipotent point of view, which always annoys me. Also, it is written in the style of Henry James, who is a minor character in the story. Vidal is showing off his ability to write long sentences that parse.

Two of the main characters are descendents of the narrator of Burr and 1876 and a third main character was also a main character in Lincoln (Lincoln's private secretary who is now an old man and Secretary of State under Roosevelt I).

The young main characters are not likeable. The man is so greedy that he uses lawyers to delay his half-sister from getting her inheritance. He is also bisexual. The woman gets revenge by being more successful as a newspaper publisher than her half-brother. Both of them emulate Hearst. This is portrayed as decadence in the man and cleverness in the woman (because she is beautiful).

The most enjoyable aspects of the novel are the descriptions of Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt I. Teddy is described as the "plump, noisy, small President" with a "passion to be thought sinewy, eloquent and tall." (334)

Henry Adams referred to him as "the Dutch-American Napoleon." (362)

"Hearst had adopted the Roosevelt formula: with the support of the bosses, you run against them." (455)

Vidal does a masterful job of weaving together the many strands of the plot and tying up all loose ends. Unfortunately, I didn't have any interest in the plot or the characters.

Year Read: 1998


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