Cover image for Imperial America : reflections on the United States of amnesia
Imperial America : reflections on the United States of amnesia
Vidal, Gore, 1925-2012.
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Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Nation Books, [2004]

Physical Description:
181 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
State of the union : 2004 -- The privatizing of the American election -- The day the American empire ran out of gas -- A cheerful response -- Armageddon? -- Notes on our patriarchal state -- The national security state -- The state of the union : 1980 -- The second American revolution -- We are the patriots -- Interim report : election 2004.
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E902 .V54 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Following the publication of Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace and Dreaming War comes award-winning Gore Vidal's long-awaited conclusion to his landmark, best-selling trilogy. Now, Vidal has written his most devastating exploration of Imperial America to date. "Not since the 1846 attack on Mexico in order to seize California" Vidal writes, "has an American government been so nakedly predatory." Bush's apparent invincibility, and what he might or might not know--especially about those new "black box" voting machines being installed all over the country--is one of the central themes of "State of the Union 2004," a magnificent and witty Olympian survey of American Empire, where the war on terror is judged as nonsensical as the "war on dandruff," where America is an "Enron-Pentagon prison," a land of ballooning budget deficits thanks to the growth of a garrison state, tax cuts for the privileged, and the creeping totalitarianism of the Ashcroft justice department. Collected inthis volume are Vidal's earlier State of the Union addresses, a tradition inaugurated on the David Susskind show in the early seventies as a counterpoint to "whoever happened to be president."

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

Like Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace (2002) and Dreaming War (2003), this final volume in Vidal's trilogy attacking the Cheney-Bush junta contains some new analysis padded out by previously published essays (most of these are from the 1980s). This time, Vidal tackles the American imperial impulse, placing the Cheney-Bush wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the context of America's 1846 seizure of California and the later annexation of colonies in the Pacific. Vidal's vast knowledge of American history and his blazing wit set him apart from the other Bush bashers, and even his old stuff will be fun to read for those sharing his point of view. Some of the material is dated, though, such as an analysis from 1985 of Reagan's Christian apocalypticism, which never really gets connected to imperial America or its current leaders. And the book's organization leaves something to be desired; some observations are repeated almost verbatim 100 pages apart. Still, Vidal's fierce, vitriolic voice remains relevant. The highlight of the book is the opening essay, a scathing critique of what Vidal calls Cheney-Bush's hijacking of the election and their subsequent administration, and so it's a bit disappointing that most of the material here is older. Vidal's historical analysis is often fascinating, but fellow Bush-bashers will wish for more current intelligence. --John Green Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

The commercial success of Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace and Dreaming War shows that Vidal's Jeffersonian anti-imperialism is fashionable again with the left wing of the book-buying public. In time for the election season, Vidal has dashed off three rambling anti-Bush diatribes and collected eight articles from the Nation, Esquire and other magazines, written from 1975 to 2004. Many of the selections take the form of mock State of the Union addresses, and while Vidal's consistency over the years is admirable, reading 11 variants of the same stump speech becomes monotonous. Vidal typically includes denunciations of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Truman for their part in constructing America's "National Security State." He believes that the Cold Warriors invented a phony Communist bogeyman and that "Israeli fifth columnists" such as Norman Podhoretz control America's policy in the Middle East. Vidal would end the war on drugs and nationalize health care and natural resources. And he would change the Constitution to make America a parliamentary democracy and break the monopoly of what he calls the "Property party," with "its two wings: Republican and Democrat." Vidal is at his most convincing and entertaining when he's jeering at democratic pieties about America, which he believes is actually an oligarchy run by a military-industrial-financial elite that he calls "the bank." Vidal may be in tune with the zeitgeist again because his polemical writing resembles the new blogger punditry: conversational, tart, fervent, digressive, susceptible to idiosyncratic theories but capable of worthwhile provocations. Agent, Richard Morris. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Every presidency is a boon to a few of its critics. To Vidal, who has long seen the United States as an imperial power obsessed with security, the administration of George W. Bush has been a gift outright. In a single year, 2002, Vidal brought out two essay collections, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace and Dreaming War. Now his publisher is announcing "the long-awaited conclusion to his best-selling trilogy." Trilogy? Unlike the two earlier collections, most of the essays here are not about contemporary events, and readers anticipating another helping of Vidal's take on Bush-Cheney might be surprised to find his wit instead trained upon Ronald Reagan, Jerry Falwell, or Earl Butz. Only the introduction, the postscript, and one essay in which Vidal suggests a nationwide conspiracy to rig voting machines deal with current events. Some essays are not even newly collected, since several, very lightly reworked here, can also be found in Vidal's widely held United States (1993). Only for libraries wanting a complete run of this master novelist and essayist. Lapham, the longtime editor of Harper's, is another eloquent and caustic critic of American imperial ambition, commercial crassness, and media timidity. His magazine work is regularly collected and republished in book form. Gag Rule consists of four long essays on the state of our polity, in large part quilted together from shorter Harper's pieces. Like Vidal's, some of this material has appeared already; certain passages in Lapham's 2002 collection, Theater of War, are identical to passages here. Consequently, this is an optional purchase for libraries, which can gauge the degree of redundancy they want in their own collections.-Bob Nardini, Chichester, NH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 State of the Union: 2004p. 3
2 The Privatizing of the American Electionp. 13
3 The Day the American Empire Ran Out of Gasp. 41
4 A Cheerful Responsep. 55
5 Armageddon?p. 61
6 Notes on Our Patriarchal Statep. 79
7 The National Security Statep. 95
8 The State of the Union: 1980p. 103
9 The Second American Revolutionp. 123
10 We Are the Patriotsp. 161
11 Interim Report: Election 2004p. 169
Indexp. 173