Introduction to Contemporary Civilization in the West: A Source Book Prepared by the Contemporary Civilization Staff of Columbia College, Columbia University, Volume 2
Gore Vidal, known for such best-sellers as The City and the Pillar, Burr, Lincoln, and Myra Breckinridge, is a household name. The controversial Vidal ran for Congress in 1960, and set sparks flying with his public debates challenging William F. Buckley and Norman Mailer. Although one of America's most admired and prolific writers, Vidal has been steadfastly ignored or impugned by many critics. This is partly owing to the vast scope of his writings, which include more than twenty novels, half a dozen plays, dozens of screenplays, countless essays and book reviews, political commentary, and short stories; how do the critics approach such a writer? There has also been backlash against Vidal, whose radical polemics and undisguised contempt for those whom he has called "the hacks and hicks of academe" have hardly endeared him to the critical establishment. Gore Vidal: Writer Against the Grain is the first collection of critical essays to approach this important American writer in an attempt to rectify the unwarranted underestimation of his work. Jay Parini has drawn from the best of previously published criticism and commissioned fresh articles by leading contemporary critics to construct a comprehensive portrait of Vidal's multifaceted and memorable career. Writers as diverse as Harold Bloom, Stephen Spender, Catharine R. Stimpson, Richard Poirier, and Italo Calvino examine Vidal's work in their own highly individual ways, and each finds a different Vidal to celebrate, chide, recollect, or view close up. Also included is a recent interview with Parini in which Vidal discusses his career and his troubled relationship with the reviewers.The Vidal that finally emerges from these essays is a writer of undeniable weight and importance. As readers will agree, Gore Vidal: Writer Against the Grain establishes his rightful role as one of the premier novelists and leading critical observers of this century.