“1876” BY GORE VIDAL


What can I say, that I have not already said about Gore Vidal? He is undeniably one of the great American writers of the twentieth century, along with Toni Morrison, Capote, Hemingway, Faulker, Baldwin, Fitzgerald, O’Hare, and so on. I also am confident that he would agree, but not agree totally with my assessment of the other great writers I mentioned.

“1876” is in a sense the third novel in the series that critics have come to name “Narratives of Empire.” The first was the one on Aaron Burr and the second on President Lincoln. Many of the fictional characters from the first two books have made it into the third, and many in the third have made it into the fourth, fifth, and sixth. You do not have to read them in order, actually the ones I have read were out of order, yet their impact was still great.

His fictional characters, like Mr and Mrs Sanford are fascinating, and the character of Charles Schuyler and his daughter are great. But it is his portrayal of President Grant, President Hayes, and Governor Tiden of NY who was literally robbed of the Presidency by the Republican party. At a mere two hundred thousand dollars the sec. of states, election board members, and governors had no qualms about changing the vote tally, and declaring the loser the winner. Yes, 1876 was undeniably one of the most corrupt moments in our country’s history, but compared to the present day insanity it seems like a lot of nothing.

Mr. Vidal, when asked about his portrayals of such real life figures as Grant and Hayes, and the many inaccuracies in his portrayals simply says, “It’s the way I see them. It is fiction, and in my reading of history, it is the way I see them.” A daring statement from any writer, but he’s not any writer. He is simply brilliant, and I highly recommend this book and the series. 

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