by Gore Vidal

Another of Vidal's historical novels about the USA. This is one of the best. It takes place during the Wilson and Harding administrations. It is written from an omniscient point of view. As usual it takes a cynical attitude toward politics, and the main fictitious characters are not likeable.

Harding comes off as relatively honest, despite his mistresses, one of whom he had sex with in the closet off his office at the White House like Bill Clinton. Wilson isolated himself from people, even before his strokes made it politically necessary. Harding was more down to earth. The only thing the fictitious heroine adds is the excuse to portray the Hollywood scene, which is well depicted.

Gore's homosexuality creeps into the story at several places, as if to imply that it is common. The impression I get from all of Gore's historical novels is that he only knows the world of snobs and that he doesn't know that they are more prone to gossip and perversion than the rest of society.

The story shows that Wilson became a dictator during WWI and free speech was suppressed with little protest. To make the world safe for democracy, he had to suppress freedom at home. Wilson is stereotyped as part college professor and part Presbyterian minister.

Year Read: 1998

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