Share story

If America hadn’t produced Gore Vidal, we’d probably have had to import him.

Novelist and playwright, wit and patrician-voiced politician, gadfly and scold — we might have been able to buy him at an auction of surplus public intellectuals from Britain when they were selling off the rest of the country after the war.

But as the delightfully flattering documentary “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia” reminds us, the late author of “Burr,” “The Best Man” and “Myra Breckinridge” was homegrown to the core, as passionately American as any public figure the republic has yet produced.

Nicholas Wrathall interviewed Vidal, traveled with him as he gave a few last talks, visited his cemetery plot in Washington, D.C., and closed up his Italian villa, winding down his life to his death in the summer of 2012. And thanks to a generous helping of archival footage, we’re treated to a nearly complete life, from his privileged Washington childhood to his emergence as a writer and his scandalous status as one of the first public homosexuals in American history. It’s almost a hagiography, and Vidal would have demanded no less.

This week, save 90% on digital access.
Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.