Tuesday, 26 January 2010

52 for 2010 #3

I'm already giving in. Not to outright non-reading (I'm far too unemployed for that), but to reading just whatever the hell comes to hand.Witness: this week, rather than picking up Ulysses, as I've been intending to do since the beginning of the year, I went straight for the first volume of Gore Vidal's memoirs: Palimpsest. Of course I did.

Happily, I don't have much to say about it. There's an abundance of juicy anecdotes (Allen Ginsberg: "So what did you get up to with Jack [Kerouac] in that Chelsea Hotel room?" Gore Vidal: "Well, I fucked him." et cetera), and insider gossip, and it's all a lot of fun. "Palimpsest" is the term for a parchment from which the original text has been erased to make way for a second text, and Vidal goes back and forth over the timeline of his life, erasing and adjusting in order to create the most pleasing sequence. This is how history works, he assures us, and we ought to be suspicious of the historian who says otherwise.

So what do I remember, off the top of my head? WW2 soldiers were a lot more homoerotic than we've been led to believe, as was Eleanor Roosevelt; Robert Kennedy's two greatest nemeses were Vidal and Jimmy Hoffa; the Beats were even bigger slackers than they realised; and when it comes to sex, Vidal is never, ever a bottom. But that goes without saying.

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