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Screening History
by Gore Vidal

AVAILABILITY: Usually ships within 1-2 weeks

Publication Date: 1994
Publisher: Harvard U Press
Binding:
Topics: Biography / Autobiography, History: Local to Global, Media, United States

Description: Gore Vidal saw his first talking picture in 1929 when he was four years old. At age ten, the film A Midsummer Night's Dream whetted his appetite for all of Shakespeare's plays, and Mickey Rooney's Puck inspired his early fantasy about becoming an actor. Yet it was movies about history, albeit history as brought to life on the silver screen, that he remembers most vividly from his youth. Movies such as Roman Scandals, The Prince and the Pauper, and Fire Over England, in his words, "opened for me that door to the past where I have spent so much of my life-long present." Author of Burr, Lincoln, and other best-selling novels chronicling our experience, Vidal shows how history and fiction blend in the private and public worlds of his generation. In 'Screening History', he intertwines fond recollections of films savored in the movie palaces of his Washington, D.C., boyhood with strands of autobiography and trenchant observations about American politics.

Never before has Vidal - a scion of one of our oldest political families - revealed so much about his own life or written with such marvelous immediacy about the real and imagined forces that have shaped America in the twentieth century. We see Vidal witnessing history as his grandfather is sworn in for a fourth Senate term during the Depression; we see him making history as a young airman of ten flying a Hammond Y-1 under the watchful eye of his father, FDR's Director of Aviation; and we journey back with him to America in the 1930s and 1940s, to theaters with names like the Belasco and the Metropolitan where the history screened for the nation's moviegoers often turned reality into fantasy, or into downright propaganda. 'Screening History' is rich with anecdotes about Vidal's eminent family and shrewd insights about prominent figures known and observed. It captures the hold that movies have had on the American imagination and the mark they left on the mind of a youngster who grew up to become one of our best-known writers. Illustrated with film clips and family photographs,

Review(s): "'Our greatest living man of letters' looks at history as it has been represented in movies to show how they have influenced the way we live and what we believe. 'Screening History' captures the hold movies have had on the way we view American life and its history. Gore Vidal remains a vital if enigmatic force on the literary scene...[Screening History is] a fresh piece of non-fiction" - NY Times Book Review

This volume ...contains author Vidal's reminiscences of his childhood and early manhood. Interestingly, Vidal uses the movies of his youth as the key to an examination of his past. Young Gore's first confrontation with the reality of death occurred in his viewing of a poignant scene from The Prince and the Pauper (1937). He is aware that films and other images from the media can be used to manipulate or define an event for its audience, and he realizes that the image often becomes the reality of that event. Vidal has a facile turn of phrase and a markedly pessimistic view of the fuure of American democracy. There is more philosophical rumination here than straight biography, but this reviewer was intrigued by the character of his grandfather, a blind senator from Oklahoma. This book is literate, thoughtful, wry, slightly cynical, and very highly recommended. - Library Journal



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