Cover image for Inventing a nation : Washington, Adams, Jefferson
Title:
Inventing a nation : Washington, Adams, Jefferson
Author:
Vidal, Gore, 1925-2012.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven : Yale University Press, [2003]

©2003
Physical Description:
198 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780300101713
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Gore Vidal, one of the master stylists of American literature and an acute observer of American life and history, turns his literary and historiographic talent to a portrait of the formidable trio of George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. living rooms (and bedrooms), the convention halls and the salons of Washington, Jefferson, Adams and others. We come to know these men, their opinions of each other, their worries about money and their concerns about creating a viable democracy.


Author Notes

Gore Vidal was born Eugene Luther Gore Vidal Jr. on October 3, 1925 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. He did not go to college but attended St. Albans School in Washington and graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire in 1943. He enlisted in the Army, where he became first mate on a freight supply ship in the Aleutian Islands.

His first novel, Williwaw, was published in 1946 when he was twenty-one years old and working as an associate editor at the publishing company E. P. Dutton. The City and the Pillar was about a handsome, athletic young Virginia man who gradually discovers that he is homosexual, which caused controversy in the publishing world. The New York Times refused to advertise the novel and gave a negative review of it and future novels. He had such trouble getting subsequent novels reviewed that he turned to writing mysteries under the pseudonym Edgar Box and then gave up novel-writing altogether for a time. Once he moved to Hollywood, he wrote television dramas, screenplays, and plays. His films included I Accuse, Suddenly Last Summer with Tennessee Williams, Is Paris Burning? with Francis Ford Coppola, and Ben-Hur. His most successful play was The Best Man, which he also adapted into a film.

He started writing novels again in the 1960's including Julian, Washington, D.C., Myra Breckenridge, Burr, Myron, 1876, Lincoln, Hollywood, Live From Golgotha: The Gospel According to Gore Vidal, and The Golden Age. He also published two collections of essays entitled The Second American Revolution, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism in 1982 and United States: Essays 1952-1992. In 2009, he received the National Book Awards lifetime achievement award. He died from complications of pneumonia on July 31, 2012 at the age of 86.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Much of Vidal's contempt for contemporary America may originate in his admiration of how the Founding Fathers handled human nature. At least the founders, Vidal seems to say in this sinuous essay, were not hypocrites disclaiming interest in power; rather, they made an honest attempt in the original Constitution to restrain what they saw as politicians' inevitable appetites for ambition and avarice. Long fascinated with the behind-the-scenes aspects of politics in the 1780s and 1790s, Vidal muses on Alexander Hamilton's machinations against John Adams and analyzes similar political sleights of hand by Jefferson, Aaron Burr, John Marshall, and James Madison. Along with these characteristically brilliant and acerbic reflections on power and personality, Vidal offers a generally positive portrayal of Washington, taking time to note how the Father of His Country looked with his wooden teeth. This entertaining and enlightening reappraisal of the founders is a must for buffs of American civilization and its discontents. --Gilbert Taylor Copyright 2003 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

In this concise but hardly cohesive effort, the achievements of America's most venerable founding fathers-and a large supporting cast, including Alexander Hamilton and Ben Franklin-are eclipsed by their personal, psychological and political foibles. Our nation is often portrayed as a finished product, having been birthed by great thinkers and selfless patriots. Vidal illustrates that the new nation was, in fact, a messy, tenuous experiment, consistently teetering on the brink. Vidal sheds light on the shaky alliances, rivalries, egos, personal ambitions and political realities faced by the men who became the first three American presidents. Unfortunately, Vidal's greatest strength, his novelist's flair, runs amok here. At John Adams's inauguration, for example, Vidal asserts that Washington "won his last victory in the Mount Rushmore sweepstakes" by forcing Jefferson, the vice-president, to exit the hall before him, so Washington could claim the larger ovation. This is divined from a record that merely states, "Jefferson was obliged to leave the chamber first." Correspondence is used to support Vidal's acerbic appraisals, but without source notes, readers are left to wonder in what context the extracts were originally penned. Vidal's antipathy toward the "American Empire" and contempt for the American public drips thick from his sentences and shows up frequently in annoying parenthetical asides and interjected screeds. He sneers that the "majority" of Americans "don't know what the Electoral College is" and compares Truman to the bloody Roman tyrant Tiberius. This book was surely intended to be thought provoking. Unfortunately, it provokes more thought about its author than its subjects. Still, one has to appreciate the irony of a noted icon-smasher launching Yale's new American Icons series. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Vidal (Burr: A Novel; Lincoln; Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace) uses the 1787 Constitutional Convention both as a focus for his psychological portraits of Washington, Jefferson, and Adams and as a jumping-off point into these Founders' lives. The narrative briefly traces early American history through the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson. But, more a commentary than a history, Vidal's short book relates certain modern troubles (e.g., the Enron scandal) to events from early U.S. history and spends so much time denigrating Alexander Hamilton that Hamilton's name might have been added to the book's subtitle. Uncertain of his intended audience, Vidal assumes that readers are familiar with little-known historical incidents, yet he goes to the trouble of defining Tories. His literary allusions are well beyond the average reader, as is his long-winded writing style. Lacking a central theme, this book offers little beyond commentary that is sometimes obscure at best. A better history is John Ferling's recent A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle To Create the American Republic. Libraries will buy this bewilderingly unfocused book on the strength of Vidal's name. That's a shame, since it does not merit the shelf space if judged on its own. [Inventing a Nation debuts Yale's "American Icons" series.-Ed.]-Grant A. Fredericksen, Illinois Prairie Dist. P.L., Metamora (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.