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Continuing what has been dubbed his 'revenge on two hundred years of American history', Gore Vidal locates this novel in Washington. But this is 1917, and Hollywood is now competing with America's capital as the nation's power-base, just as it fights for centre-stage in this book. Caroline Sanford, erstwhile newspaper magnate, launches herself into the West Coast land of celluloid dreams and becomes, overnight, an international star. Not for nothing, on the dawn of World War One, is Caroline making films like the Huns from Hell. She is a government agent. But in Washington, that government isn't doing awfully well. Weighed down by his League of Nation's failure, by Roosevelt, Clemenceau, a stroke and the ship-like tonnage of his wife Edith, President Woodrow Wilson is on the wane - and Warren Harding is on the up. A popular, handsome, toothpick-chomping philanderer and dimwit whose wife is given to consulting spiritualists, he is about to usher in a new era. One of unprecedented scandal, cinematic extravagance and tawdry disintegration. The sort of era where the President could easily be mistaken for a film star ...

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780349105260
ISBN-10: 034910526X
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 127mm x 33mm)
Pages: 512
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 2-Apr-1994
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

UK Kirkus Review » Another episode in Vidal's monumental alternative history of the USA, mixing real characters (Woodrow Wilson, Warren G Harding, Franklin D Roosevelt) with fictional ones: and in Hollywood the future, not least of the Reagan era, is perceived. A stimulating book. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Vidal's most leisurely novel in his ongoing American chronicle (Empire, 1987, etc.) and - would the plot had some force - his most masterly: spacious, lively, filled with brilliant, soft-focus scenes bolstered with exact cultural details placed to perfection. It also takes some time to warm to and for Vidal's voice to reach a muted Waspishness that gives much pleasure and has none of the hollow notes that marred some earlier entries in this series. Caroline Sanford, the yellow-journalism publisher of Empire, is the nominal leading figure here, but her leading man, leftish movie director Tim O'Farrell, is barely a supportting character, while the foreground is dominated by bigger men - Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Warren G. Harding and (returning from Empire) Theodore Roosevelt and William Randolph Hearst. Senator James Burden Day, who fathered Caroline's illegitimate daughter Emma (apparently an incipient schizophrenic), carries many scenes without really taking on weight in the reader's mind. In fact, Vidal is so interested in shaping his novel from Washington materials - the issues surrounding WW I, and later the failure of Congress to support Wilson's League of Nations, with the flu epidemic and several famous scandals thrown in - that Hollywood is scanted and given perhaps a third of the novel's pages on the plot twist that Caroline becomes a famous "mature" movie heroine in Tim's movies and then herself follows Hearst into movie production. This is a novel that enlarges your sense of daily life and politics in Washington - and that engages you scandal by scandal and issue by issue without engaging you in its leading character's fate. And all ends, quietly, like fireflies on the veranda. Often superbly done, page by page, but also sleep-making in the lack of big effects in its endless chat and cloakroom skulduggery. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal was at the centre of literary and intellectual life for half a century and wrote 'The Narratives of a Golden Age' series as well as countless bestsellers. He died on 31st July 2012.

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