‘Point To Point Navigation’ By Gore Vidal


Not half so sad as its autobiographical predecessor, Palimpsest, despite containing moving accounts of the decline and death of his partner of more than half a century. It is more classic Vidal. Witty, viper-like name dropping and infinite and partially justifiable self regard.

Want humorous stories about Tennessee Williams, Paul Newman, Omar Sharif, and Norman Podhoretz? Look no further.

A surprisingly breezy read, too. Short chapters and sort in general (little over 250 pages).

The Yellow Wallpaper


I read this longish short story in high school or early in college and understood nothing, which is a reminder, too late for my youthful self, that we really, really don’t know as much as we think we do when we are nineteen.

Laughably, I couldn’t see how it was a feminist document and in my young male-ness, was fairly dismissive of it. And while I had read Lovecraft, I wasn’t familiar with the heritage of weird fiction that undergird his works and which also was part of Gilman’s heritage (Hoffmann, Gautier, Bierce, I would include).

Now it is all obvious. As is the combined horror of suffocating paternalism and… the occult? I don’t know. What did John see that made him faint when he finally entered the room?

Slouching Towards Bethlehem


Can you believe I hadn’t read this before? In fact, I’m not sure I’d read any Didion before. I feel like I must have read a piece somewhere, in some publication, but I can’t prove it.

Certainly, while her novelistic style is known to me, it is very different from the more arch, patrician (patriarchal?) style of my favored essayists, who are more in a direct line of succession to nineteenth century essayists than to the experimental atmosphere of the fifties and sixties.

The title piece is the exemplar if the style she uses. Nearly stream of consciousness in effect and both dreamy and terrifying. Perhaps, though, only terrifying to a middle aged father.

I admire but did not love most of this (except for a piece on Joan Baez funding this weird school; loved that) collection and, if I’m honest, may not go on to read much Joan Didion in the future.

Palimpsest


My fascination with two towering and toweringly problematic white, male, America intellectuals (Jefferson and Vidal) continues. People, I think, get my interest in Jefferson (which arguably dates back to a visit to Monticello with my mother when I was in elementary school), but Vidal continues to be get confused shrugs from my friends and family.

Elegiac. Remembrances of people lost. He is in his late sixties as he writes it, but sounds much older. His name dropping feels less pretentious and his poison pen less malicious than usual.

Early on, he notes that he has his grandfather’s imperious ponch, but that unlike that statesman, his is fueled by alcohol consumption. I noted this bit of honesty because I have read that in his last years, he suffered from dementia brought on by alcoholism.

He seems to have almost forgiven Kennedy for betraying him, politically, as he saw it (believing that Kennedy, after getting us into Vietnam, would have escalated as surely as Johnson did) and to look kindly on Jackie Kennedy.

‘TekWar’ By William Shatner


I assume he also had the benefit of an anonymous co-writer. I remember well the placement of these books in the Dunedin Library when I was in high school and later the TV movies and series.

It isn’t good, of course, but it’s not bad. The vision of the future is surprisingly realistic and the writing not that bad. The plot keeps moving forward at a solid pace and it really resembles a Neuromancer, if it had been written by a mid-level writer of sixties pulp space opera. I even managed not to always see the actors from the series (which I watched, of course).

All told, a relief. I love Shatner and it’s pleasant to see this lark of his was not unsuccessful.

Half A King


I read an earlier Abercrombie trilogy. I gather this is the start of another. Thrilling with many twists and turns, but it ultimately felt rather lightweight for a novel in the so-called grimdark genre. If it is easy to find in the library, I may read the rest of the series, but I won’t rush to do it.