Hollywood, a novel by Gore Vidal.
Did it take me too long to get through this, dear worst-reader? Maybe it didn’t take long enough. Or, perhaps, is this piece of work enough to make me stop in my quest to read (all of) Vidal’s “Narratives of Empire”? Indeed. Four of the seven books are left. And I was bored more than not with this one. But I fought through it–because I felt compelled to do so. I wondered at times if Vidal was just as bored writing it. Nah. A man who can pull this off cannot be bored with what he does. Or? Vidal knows for whom and for what he wrote Narratives. That in and of itself is reason to complete the series. Or maybe not.
This is my third novel from Gore Vidal’s seven book series. What is becoming clear to me is that there is a sincerity, an earnestness to these books. They are more than just fictional histories of #americant through the eyes of someone who knows politics probably better than most. It’s almost as though Vidal is trying to tell Americans something not just about history but also about who and what we are and the world we have to live in. The quest to chronicle a lands history in a concise enough form so that posterity won’t forget it–or, at best–its people won’t leave it behind, is a task to be wondered. Or? Thus far I’ve read Lincoln, Burr, Creation and now Hollywood. Wait. I know. Creation isn’t really part of the Narrative series but somehow, after reading it, I can’t help but think that Vidal wants it to be because, simply, it is a great explanation of the history of humanity pre and post religious nutbaggery, i.e. #americant in the 20th century. But that’s neither here nor there. The real question we are facing, dear worst-reader, is what’s next on the Narrative reading list? Empire, 1876, Washington DC or the Golden Age? Indeed. I’m torn. Oh well.
The one thing that saved (reading) this book for me was an ever growing interest in Vidal’s choice of characters from which to tell this story. Ironically, or maybe not, the best character of the novel isn’t even a real historical figure. For whatever reason Vidal had to make up a few characters. Enter Caroline Sanford. She is both an actress and a newspaper mogul. She is the embodiment of Vidal’s vision linking two geographic points of a fledgling nation. She reminded me somewhat of Dagny of Atlas Shrugged–but only in my imaginative effort to give her a physical presence. As far as the other characters go, it’s easy to look up the presidents, the government officials, the barons and the goons Vidal chronicles. They are all only a wiki-link away. But Caroline? Where did Vidal get this chick? I’ll be wasting hours googling to find out why Vidal created her. But more importantly, she’ll be the reason I probably read “Empire” next as she is featured in that novel, as well. I’m a Caroline Sanford fan.
The historical characters covered in the book, especially the presidents Woodrow Wilson and Warren G. Harding, are only interesting because of how Vidal presents them in the context of (their) political buffoonery. Although I did learn a few things about Wilson, like his stedfast belief in the failed League of Nations, I kept getting the feeling that these figures of #americant history are nothing more than a side-show. The things said, done and committed by the novel’s figures is nothing compared to the intrigue Vidal miraculously achieves by the juxtaposition of Washington DC vs Hollywood. Vidal literally codifies the how and why of entertainment vs politics, all of which has been willfully and consciously merged right underneath the eyes of a puritanical nation of nitwits. This aspect of the story is the unexpected grand achievement of the book. How many people conclude that the connection between these two opposing coastlines would set the stage of #americant for an entire century? Even though it takes Vidal a while to get to Hollywood from the beginning of the book, once there I was hooked. Every time he returned to the east coast, though, I found a way to put the book down–and sometimes I even rushed through the text. California here I come!
All in all, this was a tough read. I really had to battle some of the huge winded chapters and as previously stated, even rush through them and I do not feel as though I missed anything by doing so. I only hope that this was the most winded book of the series. Two other non-Vidal books are in front of Empire so maybe that will give me achance to recupearate form this one. Or maybe I won’t be able to wait that long before getting back to Ms. Sanford.
Some quotes from the novel “Hollywood” by Gore Vidal:
- “Almost everyone nowadays had two lives, his own and his life at the movies.”
- “The had used the movies successfully to demonize national enemies. Now why not use them to alter the viewer’s perception of himself and the world.”
- “Show things the way they are but carefully angled, the way the camera is, to make the audience see what you want them to see.”
Rant on. -Tommi