This volume is part of the same series as Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings ( LJ 2/15/84) and contains author Vidal's reminiscences of his childhood and early manhood. Interestingly, Vidal uses the movies of his youth as the key to an examination of his past. Young Gore's first confrontation with the reality of death occurred in his viewing of a poignant scene from The Prince and the Pauper (1937). He is aware that films and other images from the media can be used to manipulate or define an event for its audience, and he realizes that the image often becomes the reality of that event. Vidal has a facile turn of phrase and a markedly pessimistic view of the fuure of American democracy. There is more philosophical rumination here than straight biography, but this reviewer was intrigued by the character of his grandfather, a blind senator from Oklahoma. This book is literate, thoughtful, wry, slightly cynical, and very highly recommended.-- Marianne Cawley, Kingwood Branch Lib., Tex.
Vidal's loose theme in this short, witty volume is that American movies manipulate us: on a personal level by inventing fictions that replace our own experience, on a political one by shaping our national self-image. Part memoir, part film commentary, his digressive narrative (based on a lecture series) reveals that his major formative influences included Boris Karloff in The Mummy , Errol Flynn in The Prince and the Pauper and Henry Fonda in Young Mr. Lin coln. He derides U.S. presidential elections as ``fast-moving fictions . . . empty of content.'' For George Bush, he laments, ``it is always 1939, the year of The Wizard of Oz . . . .'' Illustrated with film clips and family photographs, Vidal's reminiscences include candid vignettes of his entrepreneurial father, who was Franklin Roosevelt's director of air commerce, and his hard-drinking mother, a thrice-married flapper. His scattershot broadside ranges from a vitriolic profile of FDR to an analysis of TV coverage of the Persian Gulf war. (Sept.)