Instagram Book Review: Point to Point Navigation, by Gore Vidal

Précis:

Point to Point Navigation (PPN) is Gore Vidal’s second and final memoir after Palimpsest. Where Palimpsest was sprawling, verbose and gossipy, PPN is reflective, deliberate, and in many places redundant as a second memoir (many observations and anecdotes from Palimpsest are repeated verbatim, or nearly so, at paragraph length in places). Whereas Palimpsest had the feeling of a genuine attempt at an account of his early life, PPN has the feeling of having been written out of obligation to finish the narrative before the passing of the narrator. Or said differently, Palimpsest was a journal, PPN was homework.

If the writing at times feels a bit strenuous, it is still a joy to read. Where it’s redundant, it’s familiar, and where it’s new, it’s witty, and at times caustic and relentless.

Regarding a review of his collection of essays "Matters of Fact and of Fiction" published in the New York Times, Vidal quotes his own letter to the paper: "This is quintessential New York Times reporting. First, it is ill-written, hence ill-edited. Second, it is inaccurate. Third, it is unintelligent in the vulgar Freudian way." Having delivered the gravamen of his case, Vidal closes his missive on a lighter note: "These demurs to one side, I am grateful to your employee for so beautifully demonstrating in a single sentence so many of the reasons why The New York Times is a perennially bad newspaper and bound to champion the disreputable likes of Judith Miller [name added later, obviously]." Clearly his estimation of the paper of record never improved.

Going back to Vidal's definition of a memoir as "how one remembers one's own life," inherent in that is telling the truth from one's own perspective, even if it contradicts the agreed-upon facts (a phrase, coincidentally, Vidal claims to have coined). Much of PPN is Vidal's attempt to set the record straight before it becomes, as it were (and in fact, now is), too late.

RIP Gore Vidal (1925-2012).

Reviewed on Instagram by @tylersprecker_books

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