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E-PUB õ Washington, D.C. ⚣ Washington, DC Is The Final Installment In Gore Vidal S Narratives Of Empire, His Acclaimed Six Volume Series Of Historical Novels About The American Past It Offers An Illuminating Portrait Of Our Republic From The Time Of The New Deal To The McCarthy EraWidely Regarded As Vidal S Ultimate Comment On How The American Political System Degrades Those Who Participate In It, Washington, DC Is A Stunning Tale Of Corruption And Diseased Ambitions It Traces The Fortunes Of James Burden Day, A Powerful Conservative Senator Who Is Eyeing The Presidency Clay Overbury, A Pragmatic Young Congressional Aide With Political Aspirations Of His Own And Blaise Sanford, A Ruthless Newspaper Tycoon Who Understands The Importance Of Money And Image In Modern Politics With Characteristic Wit And Insight, Vidal Chronicles Life In The Nation S Capital At A Time When These Men And Others Transformed America Into Possibly The Last Empire On Earth I ve been reading all of the Empire series in chronological order of the plot, and I like this one the least so far It seems to deal far less with real historical events, and is of a melodrama between Vidal s characters than anything else.That said, Vidal is still a superb writer, and still manages to provide great insight into a period of politics and American history This is a good and relatively quick read. The apes have always governed us, and our complaints are simply monkey chatter The local library had a fistful of Gore Vidal s to pick from, but I had already decided I was going to pick up this novel for several reasons First, it is the first novel in the Narratives of Empire series Second, it was published in 1967 The year of my birth It is interesting for me to see what was published, and what was on the minds of the people the year I was born Third, I own a signed first edition that I really didn t want to haul around with me Any inadvertent scuffing that the spine split library copy I borrowed received in my hands would not be noticeable.Gore Vidal was 42 in 1967, so he is spotting me 42 years, and given his seemingly firm grasp on life I can only hope that I can manage to outlive the silver tongued devil Above is Gore Vidal in 1967.From what I ve heard about this book I knew it was going to be the least historical based of the series and also one of the weaker books in the series With Vidal s connection to politics I believe it was really just a vehicle for him to put together some of his observations of politicians and their satellite community of supporters and enemies If he skewered a few of his own enemies in the process all the better The novel begins in the final years of FDR and ends under Eisenhower During that span we see the power of the old guard politicians being pushed aside by the in a hurry war generation Corruption has always been a part of politics, but during this generational switch the rules changeNow of course hardly anyone even pretended to worry about right and wrong Today s man knew no motive but interest, acknowledged no criterion but success, worshiped no god but ambitionI was out to lunch with a retired politician the other day He still makes the trek to Topeka to petition those in power for pet projects or to help out some of his friends He bemoaned the changing times and how irritating he found these young politicians I had to bite my tongue, nod my head, and make sympathetic noises at the appropriate times, but I wanted to say have you read Washington, D.C He would have found that Senator James Burden Day from the 1950s had the same complaints as he does in 2012 The book confirmed for me that things never really change Every new group of politicians may start out with the best intentions, but eventually succumb to the power and influence of Washington The parties, the rampant infidelity, the greed, the deals, and the constant jockeying for position A reader might experience whiplash with the Mach 1 velocity of some of the changing alliances The family, friends, and associates of the politicians are as swept up in the unseemliness of Washington power politics as much, if not , than the politician they are associated with.This is a cynical book relieve only by a smattering of Vidal wit and moments of sparkling dialogue the book would have benefited from higher dosages of both wit and sparkle Political junkies will like this book For the rest of the reader nation out there I would suggest starting with Julian, Lincoln, or Burr One last quote that really sums up the theme of the whole bookThere is no virtue in any of us, Senator We are savages and don t say it was better when he was alive Peter struck the painted face of Jefferson He lied and cheated and wrote lovely prose and collected recipes and wanted to lord it over this foolish land and did and died and that was the end of him And don t say that it matters what opinion the future holds of you, for the human race will stop one day, not a moment too soon, and then it will not have mattered one single damn who was an ape and who was a monkey in this filthy cage
Consider me scorned I thought Gore was sincere when he swept me away Burr left me panting It had balance, it was quick but solid I nearly swooned Now Washington D.C reeked of hyperbole a kiss and tell where Vidal begs with glee, look at me The novel is a settling of scores poised between ludicrous coincidences A moldy snapshot of cocktail parties and dirty deeds It is a Jackie Collins for the Beltway Now I m not so sure If Gore comes a knocking, I ll gird myself, stay dressed, but above all, remain polite.There has been a lean towards a third star this evening I don t think the addition would be fair. In preparation of my move to the District, I picked up Gore Vidal s novel Washington, DC It s the most subtle and complete description I ve ever read of our nation s capitol I think it captures perfectly the odd dual nature of the city, part southerners who live there permanently and part itinerant politicians floating in from what DC views as the hinterlands.Despite the numerous entertaining romances and scandals that fill its pages, the book is fundamentally a meditation on the nature of power, both political and economic The most significant conversation comes when a young, na ve, yet power hungry senator s aide talks to an old, wealthy newspaper publisher The older man Blaise says bluntly What matters is I have power and you want it, to which the young Clay replies Not your sort, no Blaise s final retort sets the tone for the rest of the book All sorts are the same, as you ll discover Every character in the book has some good traits, and honestly believes they are doing good for society in Washington the author is even optimistic enough to acknowledge that some of the characters really have done some good during their careers Yet at the same time every character makes ethical compromises to get power, always with the rationalization that when that power arrives they will start doing good again For most of the men in the novel, tragically the end of their career arrives before they get around to actually doing good.Despite the utter pessimism of this worldview, the author gives us a somewhat happy ending For at least one character love of another human being becomes a way to forget the meaningless of the struggle of power The love of fighting for or against a simple truth is worth the effort, if only because it makes your political life seem meaningful It is an enigmatic ending of existential happiness, and one that I keep rereading hoping to understand it better.