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Description - The Smithsonian Institution by Gore Vidal

Good Friday, 1939, and T., a sixteen-year-old schoolboy, arrives at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. The museum is closed, but T. manages to slip in, and it would appear that somehow, he is expected. An old man, Bentsen, shows him around, and T. realises that all is not as it seems. As he goes to examine a Native American exhibit, he is drawn magically into the nineteenth-century world of a reservation of Sioux Indians. They like what they see of T. and immediately get the pot boiling. T. is forced to take refuge in the tent of a young Squaw. They become lovers, and she helps him to escape back to the safety of the Smithsonian. Back with Bentsen, T. explores the Smithsonian further and begins to fathom the mysteries of time travel. The Smithsonian scientists have discovered how to get back to the past, but still don't know how to travel to the future. T. puts his brilliant mathematical brain to the problem. However, given a glimpse into the future, T. sees his own untimely death, and becomes determined to prevent the outbreak of WWII...

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780349110721
ISBN-10: 0349110727
Format: Paperback
(197mm x 126mm x 17mm)
Pages: 272
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 7-Oct-1999
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - The Smithsonian Institution by Gore Vidal

UK Kirkus Review » Vidal has written nothing better than Myra Breckinridge. But then, as he might say, who has? This political satire will please Vidal fans, but others may find it somewhat pretentious. It features a male teenage protagonist, known only as T, wandering the halls of the Smithsonian and encountering such epochal figures as Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein and Adolf Hitler. A former First Lady proves herself keen to make a man out of the boy. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Another merry riff on Washington power politics, struggles, and failures from the venerable curmudgeon and sage: an appealingly unholy marriage of Burr, Duluth, and a suavely Vidalian amalgam of Tom Sawyer and Tom Swift. In 1939, a 13-year-old prep school student who's identified only as "T." (and who, we soon learn, is a "teenage mathematical genius") is yanked out of classes and driven to the title location's main building ("the Castle"), where, after meeting wax figures who come mischievously to life after the doors are closed to the public, he becomes a pivotal figure in crisscrossing plans to either avert or win a forthcoming world war. Specifically, undisclosed forces (among them may be James Smithson, the Institution's presiding genius) have determined that T., also, incidentally, "the best schoolboy pitcher in the Washington, D.C., area," may possess knowledge that will enable his country to detonate a nuclear bomb without producing the ensuing chain reaction certain to destroy the world. After a disturbing first few hours within the Castle, during which he's declared "prime veal" and almost parboiled in the Early Indian Exhibit Room (then relieved - to his relief - of his virginity by a non-Native American "Squaw"). T. settles sturdily down to business, reassuring a depressed-looking Abraham Lincoln and a truculently pacifist Charles Lindbergh, explaining to Robert Oppenheimer just where Einstein went wrong, and, thanks to a jury-rigged thermostat, traveling about in "innumerable parallel pasts." Only a cad would give away the beguiling results of T.'s refreshingly ingenuous adventures and discoveries - not to mention the dozens of ingenious anachronistic gags with which the narrative is studded. This may be the wisest book that Vidal - this incomparably urbane observer of our revered past, debased present, and unpromising future - has even written. It is, as well, entertainment of the highest order. Even Norman Mailer will like this novel. (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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