The essays collected here all appeared in The Nation magazine between 1958 and 2005. The early literary ones reflected Vidal s status as a rising young novelist of the postwar generation, and as he expanded confidently into nonfiction, his essays range widely over politics, religion, society, manners and morals. We see him emerge as the pre-eminent essayist of his generation, winning a 1993 Nation Book Award for a collection of nonfiction works.
From the first sentence [of Myra Breckingridge ,] I was transfixed, a convert, an acolyte, and I remain so to this day. “I am Myra Breckinridge whom no man will ever possess,” the novel begins. Myra’s voice was nothing like I had read before. “Frankly I can think of no greater pleasure than to approach an open face and swiftly say whatever needs to be said to shut it.” Touché.
In talking about the rise of Christian fundamentalists in 1970s America, Vidal concludes, “The authors of Leviticus proscribe homosexuality – and so do all good Christers. But Leviticus also proscribes rare meat, bacon, shellfish, and the wearing of nylon mixed with wool. If Leviticus were to be obeyed in every instance, the garment trade would collapse.” This is the Vidal style through and through: a serious comment is followed by an ironic gloss.