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Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2015
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Description

A generous, entertaining, intimate look at Gore Vidal, a man who prided himself on being difficult to know

Detached and ironic; a master of the pointed put-down, of the cutting quip; enigmatic, impossible to truly know: This is the calcified, public image of Gore Vidal—one the man himself was fond of reinforcing. "I'm exactly as I appear," he once said of himself. "There is no warm, lovable person inside. Beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water."
Michael Mewshaw's Sympathy for the Devil, a memoir of his friendship with the stubbornly iconoclastic public intellectual, is a welcome corrective to this tired received wisdom. A complex, nuanced portrait emerges in these pages—and while "Gore" can indeed be brusque, standoffish, even cruel, Mewshaw also catches him in more vulnerable moments. The Gore Vidal the reader comes to know here is generous and supportive to younger, less successful writers; he is also, especially toward the end of his life, disappointed, even lonely.
Sparkling, often hilarious, and filled with spicy anecdotes about expat life in Italy, Sympathy for the Devil is an irresistible inside account of a man who was himself—faults and all—impossible to resist. As enlightening as it is entertaining, it offers a unique look at a figure many only think they know.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
01/13/2015
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780374711191
ASIN:
B00L74GRI2
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Michael Mewshaw. (2015). Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Michael Mewshaw. 2015. Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship With Gore Vidal. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Michael Mewshaw, Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship With Gore Vidal. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Michael Mewshaw. Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship With Gore Vidal. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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        Michael Mewshaw's more-than-four-decade career spans fiction, nonfiction, literary criticism, and investigative journalism. He is the author of, among other titles, the nonfiction works Life for Death, Short Circuit, and Between Terror and Tourism: An Overland Journey Across North Africa; the novel Year of the Gun; and the memoirs Do I Owe You Something? and If You Could See Me Now. He has published hundreds of articles, reviews, and literary profiles in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, Newsweek, Harper's, Granta, and many other international outlets. During the winter he lives in Key West, Florida, with his wife, Linda, and he spends the rest of the year traveling in Europe and Africa.

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shortDescription

A generous, entertaining, intimate look at Gore Vidal, a man who prided himself on being difficult to know

Detached and ironic; a master of the pointed put-down, of the cutting quip; enigmatic, impossible to truly know: This is the calcified, public image of Gore Vidal—one the man himself was fond of reinforcing. "I'm exactly as I appear," he once said of himself. "There is no warm, lovable person inside. Beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water."
Michael Mewshaw's Sympathy for the Devil, a memoir of his friendship with the stubbornly iconoclastic public intellectual, is a welcome corrective to this tired received wisdom. A complex, nuanced portrait emerges in these pages—and while "Gore" can indeed be brusque, standoffish, even cruel, Mewshaw also catches him in more vulnerable moments. The Gore Vidal the reader comes to know here is generous and supportive to younger, less successful writers; he is also,...

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Sympathy for the Devil
fullDescription

A generous, entertaining, intimate look at Gore Vidal, a man who prided himself on being difficult to know

Detached and ironic; a master of the pointed put-down, of the cutting quip; enigmatic, impossible to truly know: This is the calcified, public image of Gore Vidal—one the man himself was fond of reinforcing. "I'm exactly as I appear," he once said of himself. "There is no warm, lovable person inside. Beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water."
Michael Mewshaw's Sympathy for the Devil, a memoir of his friendship with the stubbornly iconoclastic public intellectual, is a welcome corrective to this tired received wisdom. A complex, nuanced portrait emerges in these pages—and while "Gore" can indeed be brusque, standoffish, even cruel, Mewshaw also catches him in more vulnerable moments. The Gore Vidal the reader comes to know here is generous and supportive to younger, less successful writers; he is also, especially toward the end of his life, disappointed, even lonely.
Sparkling, often hilarious, and filled with spicy anecdotes about expat life in Italy, Sympathy for the Devil is an irresistible inside account of a man who was himself—faults and all—impossible to resist. As enlightening as it is entertaining, it offers a unique look at a figure many only think they know.

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reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: John Domini, Bookforum
      • content: "Michael Mewshaw's Sympathy for the Devil, his reminiscence of Gore Vidal, proves easy to praise--swift, canny, sensitive, and unafraid."
      • premium: False
      • source: Julia M. Klein, The Boston Globe
      • content: "[Mewshaw's] Vidal is brilliantly alive, raunchy, as easily offended as he is quick to give offense--and then, finally, desperately self-hating, vituperative, and alone."
      • premium: False
      • source: San Francisco Chronicle
      • content: "Perhaps the best American writer you never heard of."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        September 8, 2014
        In this memoir about his friendship with Gore Vidal, Mewshaw (Lying with the Dead) proposes to offer a “corrective portrait” that will reveal the vulnerability beneath the legendary writer’s legendary hauteur. To be sure, Vidal was known for his scathing wit, several examples of which are amusingly recounted. When actor Andy Garcia, for instance, indicates that Mewshaw, not Vidal, is his favorite author, the catty Vidal tells his friend, “You can have all the dyslexics.” Elsewhere, we read of Vidal’s penchant for discussing “celebrity equipment” with guests, his long-standing vendetta against the New York Times, and his “rich history of hypochondria.” But as amusing as these anecdotes are, Mewshaw’s book is best when probing its subject’s true character. Vidal is revealed to have been an avid protector of his own public persona, at one point making Mewshaw tell the London Review of Books that Vidal planned to sue the magazine for libel. Vidal’s real self is more elusive: in one episode, he claims to have fathered a daughter so he won’t be tied down to one sexual identity, and in another he tells a story about an adolescent affair with the “love of his life,” which Mewshaw later learns might not be true. To Mewshaw’s credit, readers will share his sadness as he watches his dear friend, the oft-irascible, even unlikable Vidal, decline. 8 pages of b&w illus. Agent: Michael Carlisle, Inkwell Management.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        November 1, 2014
        Vidal unvarnished: the private life of an aging provocateur.Near the end of this memoir of life with Gore Vidal (1925-2012), novelist and journalist Mewshaw (If You Could See Me Now, 2011, etc.) writes that he prefers to remember how "generous and hospitable" Vidal was. "Not at all the bitchy, mean-spirited man his critics imagined." It's an odd conclusion to a book that, if anything, makes the opposite case. Mewshaw knew Vidal well, as a friend, interview subject, dinner companion and part-time expat neighbor in Italy, but the relationship clearly tested his patience. As he writes, "[Vidal] embodied Goethe's dictum that 'the world only goes forward because of those who oppose it.' And those who oppose it have to expect to take their lumps." Although he never denies Vidal his assets-literary brilliance, productivity, loyalty, professional and financial help to others-Mewshaw was also clearly worn out by the older writer's boorishness, self-absorption, and apparent decadeslong ambition to eat and drink himself to death. As the author sees it, Vidal's lordly, self-satisfied demeanor was something of a ruse; he was also beset by demons-old resentments, vindictiveness, oversensitivity to slights-which he battled with alcohol and pills. Luckily, he also had a hardy constitution; Mewshaw recalls one evening after the next seeing Vidal drinking enough wine or whiskey to slay an ox, only to get up the next morning and write. Consequently, the book counterbalances Vidal's airbrushed self-portrait in Palimpsest (1995), which Mewshaw writes "wasn't so much a memoir as a novel with a thoroughly unreliable narrator." Mewshaw gives a good inside picture of Vidal's domestic life, as well as showing his fears, vulnerabilities and full-time dependence on his 50-plus-year partner, Howard Austen, whose death in 2003 left Vidal with little more than alcohol for consolation. Mewshaw's account is more devilish (and sometimes downright cruel) than sympathetic, but it's also well-written, funny and never boring. Literary lives don't get dishier.

        COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        January 1, 2015

        Author Mewshaw (Short Circuit; Do I Owe You Something?) recounts 40 years of friendship with the late author Gore Vidal (1925-2012) in this memoir, profiling one of the towering figures of 20th-century American letters during the second half of his epic life. Mewshaw attempts to bring a more balanced picture of Vidal, contrasting a public persona of irony and misanthropic pronouncements by highlighting some of his better traits. He is most successful--and entertaining--by bringing to life Vidal's wit and intellect through scenes that allow readers to believe they are eavesdropping on a particularly witty and erudite dinner party. He is best at describing the American expatriate literary and cultural scene in Italy where Vidal and his companion spent much time from the 1970s onward. Considering that much of the book takes place during Vidal's later life, there is a palpable sense of decline and aging as the narrative progresses, and Mewshaw does not shy away from discussing this. VERDICT While this is not--nor is it meant to be--a full examination of Vidal's life and work, it does add another layer to the multifaceted story of an American original, a tale still being unveiled, that will interest Vidal fans. [See Prepub Alert, 7/7/14.]--James Collins, Morristown-Morris Twp. P.L., NJ

        Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

subtitle
Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal
popularity
25
publisher
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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