In my new-found desire to embrace my brain with both arms, I wandered into the bookshop with a hole burning in my pocket. The book I settled on was Gore Vidal’s answer to the Patriot Act, “Inventing the Nation”. It is also, interestingly, the continuing conversation between the author and John F. Kennedy (sadly one sided these days). JFK wondered how “a sort of backwoods country like this, with only three million people, could have produced the three greatest geniuses of the 18th century.” And Gore Vidal has been pondering this very question ever since.
The edition I read, was forwarded by one of my favorite politicians, Bob Carr, former Premier of NSW for 12 years. One of the few openly intellectual politicians to be elected in the sunburnt country, and who also holds a deep fascination with American History. And now thanks to this book, so do I. It is interesting how difficult it was to put this democracy together, how they were thinking of importing the Polish Monarchy, and the various acts of treason from Agent Number 7, the funding of Napoleon, to the cold war of words with France. All the elements of recent history are here. No wonder so many great movies come from America. It is amazing how even for the most remarkable of minds, they still have feet very much made of clay.
As I’m still trying to process much of the information the book possesses, I can only offer a recommendation to read it, rather then to offer an analysis of it. All I can do it to warn you that as a causal studier of American History (a nice way to say that everything I know about the subject comes from The Simpsons), it can be at times very difficult to follow. Vidal makes so many allusions to other periods in history that would require a whole library of books to verify.
So, for Gore Vidal, previously only known to me as the author of the late 1960s deconstruction novel Myra Breckinridge, where a Transsexual sets about intellectually destroying that most sacred of American Institutions, Hollywood. This book shows no signs of his mellowing with age.