two-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
27-Mar-Apr-2007
By: 
Gore Vidal
user_rating: 
0

A Memoir

A-Point to Point NavigationGore Vidal’s second memoir in a decade is a sequel of sorts to his well-received Palimpsest (1995), which guided readers through the author’s first 39 years. Point to Point Navigation details his rich, and often contentious, literary and social life since. In this volume Vidal relives his jaunts through exclusive social circles and dishes on the famous and the infamous, literary and otherwise: Robert Lowell, Saul Bellow, Jacqueline Susann, Jack and Jacqueline Kennedy, Randall Jarrell, William F. Buckley, Jr., Johnny Carson, and Eleanor Roosevelt, among many others. Vidal tempers his cantankerous nature with a creeping sense of his own mortality. But what a life he has lived!
Doubleday. 288 pages. $26. ISBN: 0385517211

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"As a memoir (his second, after Palimpsest), Point to Point Navigation is as meandering as its title indicates. That’s a compliment: it takes an adroit raconteur to skip so entertainingly among seemingly unrelated subjects without losing track of each anecdote’s destination." Janet Maslin

Rocky Mountain News 3 of 5 Stars
"Point To Point Navigation is a flighty book, hopping between whatever memories come across Vidal’s mind and elicits a range of reader reactions, from irritation to incredulity. … Perhaps it’s that Vidal doesn’t have to prove anything, so it’s easy to accept him for who he is: a dissident, an anachronism and a font of the kind of celebrity gossip with a veneer of profundity." John Dicker

Houston Chronicle 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Vidal has taken the freedom the memoir offers but has delivered a text that is directionless, lumpy and disconnected. However, if you approach the book as a series of postprandial stories by a wicked, witty gossip, you won’t be disappointed." Steven E. Alford

Los Angeles Times 2 of 5 Stars
"Despite some exquisite passages and frisky prose, Point to Point Navigation betrays a diminishing attention span. There are sentences so sloppy that I never would have attributed them to a spit-and-polish stylist like Vidal." James Marcus

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2 of 5 Stars
"[Vidal’s] latest personal writing, sadly, covers a lot of the same ground Vidal trod in ‘95—his childhood in Washington, D.C., relationships with the Kennedys, Tennessee Williams and a host of other literary and entertainment figures, mostly from the 1950s and ‘60s. … Many stretches of this memoir are entertaining and amusing, vintage Vidal, but some are anecdotes we’ve heard before and others seem trivial and pointless." Bob Hoover

San Francisco Chronicle 1.5 of 5 Stars
"Unfortunately, Point to Point Navigation does not sustain the energetic combination of reminiscence and pointed commentary that made much of Palimpsest an interesting read." Michael S. Roth

Critical Summary

Literary celebrity, critic, and prolific author of many works, including the National Book Award–winning United States: Essays 1952-1992 and more than 20 novels, the octogenarian Gore Vidal keeps writing. Although critics unanimously point to the author’s memoir Palimpsest (1995) as a masterpiece in the genre, they agree that the writing and much of the content in Point to Point Navigation pale beside the earlier effort. Reviewers take the avowed stylist to task for some lazy phrasing, though most give a nod to the career, the extraordinary experiences, and the sly, acerbic wit of a man who, seemingly, knew everyone worth knowing in the last four decades of the 20th century. Finally, that’s one of the book’s problems: the point of all that name-dropping remains unclear, the stories scattershot and even repetitive.