Detached and ironic; a master of the pointed put-down, of the cutting quip; enigmatic, impossible to truly kw: this is the calcified public image of Gore Vidal--one the man himself was fond of reinforcing. I'm exactly as I appear, he once said of himself. There is warm, lovable person inside. Beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water. Michael Mewshaw's Sympathy for the Devil, a memoir of his friendship with the stubbornly icoclastic public intellectual, is a welcome corrective to this tired received wisdom. A complex, nuanced portrait emerges in these pages--and while Gore can indeed be brusque, standoffish, even cruel, Mewshaw also catches him in more vulnerable moments. The Gore Vidal the reader comes to kw here is generous and supportive to younger, less successful writers; he is also, especially toward the end of his life, disappointed, even lonely.Sparkling, often hilarious, and filled with spicy anecdotes about expat life in Italy, Sympathy for the Devil is an irresistible inside account of a man who was himself--faults and all--impossible to resist. As enlightening as it is entertaining, it offers a unique look at a figure many only think they kw.
Michael Mewshaw's more-than-four-decade career spans fiction, nonfiction, literary criticism, and investigative journalism. He is the author of, among other titles, the nonfiction works Life for Death, Short Circuit, and Between Terror and Tourism: An Overland Journey Across North Africa; the novel Year of the Gun; and the memoirs Do I Owe You Something? and If You Could See Me Now. He has published hundreds of articles, reviews, and literary profiles in The New York Times, TheWashington Post, The Nation, Newsweek, Harper'sMagazine, Granta, and many other international outlets. During the winter he lives in Key West, Florida, with his wife, Linda; he spends the rest of the year traveling in Europe and Africa.