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United States: Essays 1952-1992 Summary & Study Guide

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United States: Essays 1952-1992 Summary & Study Guide Description

United States: Essays 1952-1992 Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on United States: Essays 1952-1992 by Gore Vidal.

Perhaps best known as an astute political commentator and author of such novels as the gender-bending Myra Breckenridge and historical fiction such as Burr and Lincoln, Gore Vidal is a multi-faceted writer whose works also include plays, screenplays, television dramas and a massive collection of essays published over the last half century. These essays have appeared in a variety of large-circulation magazines including Esquire, The Nation and The New York Review of Books, as well as other smaller literary magazines in Europe and the United States. This particular collection of essays covers the period of 1952 to 1992 and is divided into three sections. The first section, titled State of the Art, focuses primarily on literature but makes occasional references to other art forms. The second section, State of the Union, includes essays on a wide range of political topics. State of Being, the final section, reprints essays on a variety of topics ranging from Hollywood film making to nation-building in Egypt.

The range and depth of this collection of essays reveals Vidal as a profound thinker with a sense of humor who is—to use one of his favorite adjectives—prescient in many areas of human life. His essays on the Middle East and its connections with America are eerily foreboding; his reflections on the state of literature not only identify disturbing trends toward illiteracy but offer explanations; and his general reflections on the world and life present him as a man of great sensitivity and insight.

Themes that appear frequently include the observation that the United States is more a capitalist empire than a true democracy; the death of a real reading public for the novel; the extent to which American literature is influenced by academia; and his belief that there is no such thing as homosexuality—only homosexual or heterosexual acts. Even when Vidal criticizes America, it is apparent that his comments are meant to be constructive and come out of genuine love and respect.

Gore Vidal was born at West Point, the son of Nina and Gene Vidal—the first aeronautics instructor at the military academy. He enlisted in the army during World War II and wrote Williwaw, a war novel, which was published when he was 19. The book was a smash hit and established him, along with Norman Mailer, as a brilliant post-war novelist. His second novel, The Pillar and the City, dealt openly with homosexuality and, like his first work, was a sensation. However, after publication of The Pillar and the City, Vidal seems to have been blacklisted by literary critics in New York, some of whom even refused to review his works. He spent time in Hollywood as a screenwriter where, among other projects, he wrote the film adaptation of "Suddenly Last Summer" by his friend Tennessee Williams. Vidal also worked as a writer in the early days of live television drama, a format he briefly considered a bright hope for spreading cultural awareness to the general public.

Vidal has written several successful stage dramas, including Visit to a Small Planet, and more than 16 novels. He also ran for the U.S. Senate from California in 1982 but was not elected. His maternal grandfather was Sen. Thomas Gore of Oklahoma, and politics was steeped in his blood from his earliest days growing up in Washington, D.C. Vidal's political, familial, and literary connections and experiences give him a unique perspective on American life that is expressed with sometimes biting, sometimes humorous, but always rewarding prose.

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