Never a dull moment in Gore Vidal’s novel, “Empire” which takes place mostly in Washington, DC at the turn of the 20th century. For starters, Mr Vidal’s characterization of William Randoph Hearst is something to marvel at. At a time where the term, fake news, has become popular, Mr. Hearst’s brilliance, lack of morals and willingness to make stuff up to sell newspapers and himself is almost in the same league with President’s Trump’s ability to write his own narrative with little or no facts. Mr. Hearst’s ability to do all this is because his super rich mother gives him all the money he wants. She is the money behind all the newspapers that he owns, and whether she actually knows what he is doing with his newspapers is never outlined in the book. The power of the press, as described by Mr. Vidal, is all consuming and as powerful as the Presidency of the United States.

Mr. Hearst is just one character in this book, whereas the characterization of President Theodore Roosevelt is almost cartoonist and an insult to my intelligence. T.R. was very likely the smartest President in the history of our country. He read on the average two books a day, wrote numerous novels, was an expert on numerous subjects, and above all else he was one of the first Presidents to break-up cooperate monopolies and trusts in the U.S. In Mr. Vidal’s version of the man, he is a war monger, empire builder, loud and boisterous and whose accomplishments don’t add up to much, such as the successful negotiations by Secretary of State Hay to end the Russian and Japanese war, the building of the Panama Canal, and the building up of our military and especially our navy are minor accomplishments in the grand scale of things.

“Empire,” despite the depiction of President Roosevelt is a compelling narrative and its depiction of Washington, DC, and its underbelly of corruption is mesmerizing, and the depictions of historical figures such as Lincoln, President McKinley, Henry Adams, Sec. John Hays, and Henry James are masterful.

Vidal is a treasure, even if I don’t agree with his depiction of President Roosevelt.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s