The Golden Age offers up United States history as only Gore Vidal can, with unrivaled penetration, wit, and high drama, allied to a classical view of human fate. It is a supreme entertainment that will also change listeners' understanding of American history and power.
©2000 Gore Vidal; (P)2000 Random House, Inc.; Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio Publishing, a Division of Random House, Inc.
trying to see the world with my ears
Writers of historical fiction should take notes on Vidal's excellent ability to relate history through snappy dialogue and description that is neither didactic nor pedantic. This is also a fast-paced listen, unlike much historical fiction.
I thought "Golden Age" excellent for its reflection on history/historiography, on America as Empire, and also as a novel in its own right - It seems to be both a modern novel and postmodern at the same time, by a novelist who was a minor actor in the events woven into novel.
One downside to the audiobook: I almost gave up on the listen in the first hours - the narrator seemed to have mastered neither the cadence of Vidal's sentences nor the voices of a couple of the characters, so she seemed to insert herself between listener and novel -- but that resolved by hour three.
Imagine! A novelist warning - in 2000 - about Presidents who trick the American public into supporting an unwanted war - not to mention the military-industrial-entertainment complex's use of drug wars and terrorism to maintain a constant state of mobilization for war - all related in an entertaining story. Vidal manages to relate not only the fictional elements but also the known history in a suspenseful manner.
Not everyone will agree with Vidal's ideas on American history, but he does argue for a view that is widely supported by professional historians.
I have never found Gore Vidal easy to read, but I do get a lot from his books. Listening wasn't much easier. There is a great deal of valuable information in this book and I am glad I stuck with it. He gives a great view of the Great American Aristocracy that came to an end with WWII.
This is my first Vidal book and by the end I liked it. Vidal does history very well, seeming to get his facts all right while inserting fictional characters, including himself. This story really covers the social scene in Washington D.C. from just before WWII to the late 1950s. What I don't like is the cynical criticism of everything. Political leaders who are populist are portrayed as stupid and in need of visionary and intelligent leadership, while elite leaders are discounted from the population and do things totally in their own interest while fooling everyone else. I don't quite know what the resulting point is. Of course Vidal's point is that America's democracy was lost to a ruling class. This was a great book to follow on after Truman, since the time frame is exactly the same
The Great Master of the historical novel leads us impeccably through the Roosevelt/Truman years with wit, hindsight and revelation. May all this great series be soon recorded!
With diligence I attempted to make it through Gore Vidal's "The Golden Age". The story is slow, drawn out, and written in a way to make every superficial detail seem as though it is of overwhelming importance to the story. I have to confess, I did not make it through the later portions of the book. It is the epitome of a book that you read only because everyone else is.
Gore Vidal, great as always. The reading however, I couldn't get passed the first hour.
The benefit of audiobooks is being able to hear, clearly, not only the tone of a character but also be able to tell the difference between them. Especially when they are supposed to have British accents. Anne apparently CANNOT do a British accent.
I only continued to listen to this disjointed series of anecdotes because they were well stated - and the narrator is superb. Vidal is a good essayist but superb novelist he is not. Taken as a whole this work amounts to a confusing collection of gossip columns about the wartime White House.
The book is typical of Vidal's self-promotion. He includes himself in the story to continue the myth that he was somehow well connected and to the manor born. In fact, born the son of a low paid military instructor at West Point, his only connection to old money and White House politics was his divorced mother's second marriage to Hugh Auchincloss, who was later the stepfather of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Always the self promoter, Vidal has milked this connection for all its worth. This book reflects that spirit. For example, the author would have you believe that his knowledge of the intimate habits of FDR (such as how he mixes his cocktails)come from Vidal's first hand experience in the day-to-day activity in the wartime White House. All of it is pure fabrication. During the war period, Vidal had no connection with politics and was a lowly enlisted man in a isolated post in Alaska. But his books always try to give the appearance that he is depicting first hand knowledge.
And much like an early version of the aged rock star Madonna, Vidal throws in irrelevant comments to shock his readers such as the inane reference to his housekeeper's vibrator.
Once you finish this book you are left asking yourself why you wasted so many hours listening to manufactured gossip about mid-century American political figures.
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