Magazine article The Spectator

Old Wasp with a Weak Sting

Magazine article The Spectator

Old Wasp with a Weak Sting

Article excerpt

DREAMING WAR by Gore Vidal Clairview, L9.95, pp. 197, ISBN 1902636414

The pleasure boat captains who ply the coast of the Gulf of Salerno beneath Gore Vidal's Ravello flat are inconsolable at the thoueht that the grand old man of American letters is returning to his homeland. The round trip that departs from Capri, and chugs past Positano and Amalfi, finishes with a flourish, as the captains point up the cliff to the Vidal residence - it perches so precariously over the bay that the 77-year-old can no longer negotiate the steep steps out of town.

His fingers, though, are as nimble as ever. So many articles have been fluttering out of the Italian eyrie that this is his second collection of essays to be published within a year, most of them prompted by 11 September. Some of the material is a bit thin, particularly his side of a long correspondence with Clive James in the Times Literary Supplement about the Japanese role in the second world war - he says Roosevelt forced Japan into the war and needlessly dropped the bomb on them; James sticks to the conventional interpretation. You get the impression that Vidal would publish his notes to the milkman, if the milkman could deal with the difficult approach to his front door step.

They would, though, be stylish notes. However cross Vidal's new neighbours back home will be with his approach to the war - horrible old America, with its oil-- powered empire, dedicated to crushing commies and heathens abroad, imprisoning blacks and poor whites at home, all to secure tax cuts for billionaires - the literary ones cannot fail to be wooed by the elegant writing of the clever old Wasp. …

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