Gore Vidal: Snapshots in History's Glare | by Gore Vidal | Abrams | 256 pages | $40

Until he published the first of his two volumes of memoirs in 1995, Gore Vidal was — in terms of self-revelation — a relatively reticent writer. This book is something different — a visual act of self-homage, a testimony to the proposition that the unphotographed life is not worth living.

With the notable exception of arch-foe William F. Buckley, this is a catalogue dedicated to friendship (Eleanor Roosevelt, Paul Bowles, Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman, Tennessee Williams) and social intersection (Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, Hillary Clinton, Susan Sontag, Kevin Spacey). As it was in Vidal's more formal recollections, Palimpsest and Point to Point Navigation, the prose of Snapshots in History's Glare is pellucid, the tone comfortably Olympian. The highlights are all here: grandfather, the US senator; father, the aviation official and entrepreneur; mother, the dipsomaniac socialite; his own double-barreled vocation as a writer and dramatist; his avocations, politics, and acting. Of particular interest are the shots of the houses he has lived in over the years: the Greek Revival on the Hudson that once belonged to essayist and agitator John Jay Chapman; La Rondinaia ("The Swallow's Nest"), the villa chiseled into the side of the Amalfi coast; the 1920s-era bungalow-styled box in the Hollywood Hills. In these places and others, Vidal wrote himself into fame and fortune.

— Peter Kadzis

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