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Every presidency is a boon to a few of its critics. To Vidal, who has long seen the United States as an imperial power obsessed with security, the administration of George W. Bush has been a gift outright. In a single year, 2002, Vidal brought out two essay collections, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace and Dreaming War. Now his publisher is announcing "the long-awaited conclusion to his best-selling trilogy." Trilogy? Unlike the two earlier collections, most of the essays here are not about contemporary events, and readers anticipating another helping of Vidal's take on Bush-Cheney might be surprised to find his wit instead trained upon Ronald Reagan, Jerry Falwell, or Earl Butz. Only the introduction, the postscript, and one essay in which Vidal suggests a nationwide conspiracy to rig voting machines deal with current events. Some essays are not even newly collected, since several, very lightly reworked here, can also be found in Vidal's widely held United States (1993). Only for libraries wanting a complete run of this master novelist and essayist. Lapham, the longtime editor of Harper's, is another eloquent and caustic critic of American imperial ambition, commercial crassness, and media timidity. His magazine work is regularly collected and republished in book form. Gag Rule consists of four long essays on the state of our polity, in large part quilted together from shorter Harper's pieces. Like Vidal's, some of this material has appeared already; certain passages in Lapham's 2002 collection, Theater of War, are identical to passages here. Consequently, this is an optional purchase for libraries, which can gauge the degree of redundancy they want in their own collections.-Bob Nardini, Chichester, NH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The commercial success of Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace and Dreaming War shows that Vidal's Jeffersonian anti-imperialism is fashionable again with the left wing of the book-buying public. In time for the election season, Vidal has dashed off three rambling anti-Bush diatribes and collected eight articles from the Nation, Esquire and other magazines, written from 1975 to 2004. Many of the selections take the form of mock State of the Union addresses, and while Vidal's consistency over the years is admirable, reading 11 variants of the same stump speech becomes monotonous. Vidal typically includes denunciations of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Truman for their part in constructing America's "National Security State." He believes that the Cold Warriors invented a phony Communist bogeyman and that "Israeli fifth columnists" such as Norman Podhoretz control America's policy in the Middle East. Vidal would end the war on drugs and nationalize health care and natural resources. And he would change the Constitution to make America a parliamentary democracy and break the monopoly of what he calls the "Property party," with "its two wings: Republican and Democrat." Vidal is at his most convincing and entertaining when he's jeering at democratic pieties about America, which he believes is actually an oligarchy run by a military-industrial-financial elite that he calls "the bank." Vidal may be in tune with the zeitgeist again because his polemical writing resembles the new blogger punditry: conversational, tart, fervent, digressive, susceptible to idiosyncratic theories but capable of worthwhile provocations. Agent, Richard Morris. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.