Rhoda Koenig

Still Elegantly Gloomy about America’s Future

Virgin Islands: A Dependency of United States, Essays 1992-1997

By Gore Vidal

Andre Deutsch 320pp £17.99) order from our bookshop

So called because it is a pendant to his recent collection, United States, Virgin Islands is hardly virgin territory for its author. As the toastmasters say, Gore Vidal needs no introduction, but, as the elderly and fuddled toastmaster sometimes whispers, who is Gore Vidal?

Playwright, novelist, and two-time-losing candidate for public office (Senate and House of Representatives) as well as essayist, Vidal, now seventy-two, lives in the US and Italy with his, as they say, long-time male companion. Ahead of his time in political incorrectness (long ago, children, that meant being a left- wing humanist), he was ostracised for a novel that, in 1948, treated its homosexual protagonist with sympathy. He has spent several years of exile in the movie and television factories, and all his life among the rich and powerful of Washington and New York, a milieu reflected not only in his historical novels but his book reviews.

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