The City and the Pillar

Vidal, Gore. The City and the Pillar. New York: Vintage Books, 1995. I've always loved listening to Vidal's eloquent rants against the corrupt American authorities (regardless of which party was in power), but I had never read any of his fiction. Though he's written extensively on American history, I decided to start with something a little lighter, his first major work and the book that established him as a gay voice: The City and the Pillar.

A study in human longing, Jim Willard spends years chasing after his boyhood love, Bob Ford, never quite realizing that he is homosexual (and in some respects, not really having the vocabulary for it). Through his travels, he experiences the scope of attitudes toward homosexuality---as well as a range of men---yet he remains frustrated at his inabilty to fulfill his inflated boyhood fantasy. Written in the late Forties, this book was quite scandalous. Today, it seems almost quaint and careful. Vidal's prose is purposely blunt and unreflective, much like Willard, which was odd given how deeply Vidal typically considers things. Overall, City is an interesting read even if just to realize how much society has changed (and how little actual people have).