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The experience forms Jim's ideal of spiritual completion Defying his parents’ expectations Jim strikes out on his own hoping to find Bob and rekindle their amorous friendship Along the way he struggles with what he feels is his uniue bond with Bob and with his persistent attraction to other me. Nothing is right Only denial of instinct is wrong There is a great and epic operatically tragic story of gay desire in The City and the Pillar and it is thisJim Willard is uncertain and confused in his adolescent sexuality One perfect summer night by the moonlight he and his best friend Bob Ford are romping about in the nude by the lake splashing and shouting and reveling in their youthfulness They begin to wrestle and suddenly the urge takes hold and they make out and make love For Jim it is the perfect and defining moment of his life and he wants of it But of course the two boys live in a world where what they have just done is simply not done or discussed They chalk up what they had just done as kid stuff But that doesn t seem to suare with Jim s true feelings Unfortunately it is the waning days of summer and life has different plans for the two and they are forced to go their separate waysFor the rest of the novel Jim loses complete touch with Bob Ford for all those intervening years and obsesses over him during hopeless travels of the world in search of him an epic journey that takes him to various ports of call as a civilian seaman and then across the US and Mexico as a Hollywood tennis instructor a private in the air force in World War II and During this time he meets a succession of male lovers who for him can never match the ideal of his first love and that first encounter and thus all of these relationships are empty for him reminding him of what he doesn t have and so desperately wantsAnd then finally courting heartbreak or ecstasy he meets Bob againI don t consider any of this description to be a spoiler because I ve only provided a plot outline not details and resolutions But what I have described is the main story arc of the book and it s a tremendous and promising story It s not an uplifting story and the apparently one sided nature of the desire is poignant There is a vast chasm between its initial lovely moment of ecstasy and its potentially promising renewal The key is how it gets there and in the getting there whether it is interesting and emotionally validUnfortunately I m saying no In my opinion Vidal fails to realize the heart wrenching potential of this material and the book by and large is bland and boringEven Vidal himself in his later years while immodestly heralding his book as a heroic effort in publishing and in the world in general in 1948 which he was correct about also admitted that the book suffered from its penny plain Hemingway esue blocks of grey prose a literary style popular among young writers at the time which he was also correct aboutBut before I cite specific justifications for my judgment there is an overarching issue about the book that concerns me and that has to do with the existence of two versions of it Not uite satisfied by the stark and brutal ending of the original 1948 version and other aspects of the narrative Vidal revised the book in 1965 completely changing and softening the ending I m certain his reasons for doing this were valid he had matured as a man and a writer after all but what this means is that today most copies of the book in circulation and all copies that have been printed for the last 50 years are of the revised version In other words if you want to get a sense of how shocking the book must have seemed to people in 1948 when it first arrived rather unexpectedly to an unready public you are kind of out of luck I have no idea how much different the two versions are or how forceful or how much softer the overtly gay love passages are in the original book Reviews and the introduction in the revised version simply say that Vidal revised it while Vidal himself has said he completely rewrote it which I doubt This is a problem in terms of gauging historical perspectiveI read the 1965 revised version so I felt out to sea in trying to replicate in my mind the experience of the typical 1948 readerAll of this notwithstanding the book gets off on a bad footing from the get go Vidal begins the book with a dissolute and drunken Jim slouching about and playing with his spilled drink in a dim gin joint like Humphrey Bogart mewling over Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca The scene is a flash forward from the main story and I think its a tonal mistake It telegraphs too much of the eventual emotional fallout at the very beginning of the story and it smacks too much of movie stylistic gimmickry Vidal was a huge movie fan as a youth and it shows He saw practically every film ever made at the time and this device seems to have been lifted straight from one of his cherished screen melodramas It reminds me of what I ve read in Haruki Murakami and I reserve the same critiue for that authorAs in Murakami s South of the Border West of the Sun Vidal has to take his narrative from point A or B since when have to get past the flashforward the epiphanous love scene to the resolution of point Z or Y since the flashforward thread is circled back to at the end The problem is that all the points between from B to Y feel like forced labor Almost of the characters including Jim are cardboard The journey does allow Vidal to explore the nature of empty sex lives in a time when searching for same sex love was especially challenging yet little of this contains any true introspection as the narrative plods along in its boring particulars Vidal grew up in elite circumstances so when he talks about life in Hollywood or about tennis and cocktail parties he knows some things but when it comes to detailing the life of a seaman he is no pun intended out to sea Many of the dialogues feel literally like four suare conversations from an old movieBecause Jim is not an introspective character we have a hard time feeling the intensity of his anguish This might be partially intended by Vidal since the nature of Jim s desire is somewhat nebulous due to his confusion But it forces Vidal to find external plotting strategies to make his points and they often seem forced and wrenched about inelegantly For instance to make a point about Jim s sexual identity confusion Vidal creates a scene in which he and a shipmate the heterosexual Collins go into Seattle and pick up two girls at a bar Based on what we are told about the girls Annie and Emily the dynamic of this bar scene pickup are not convincing but the whole scene is a setup so that Vidal can have his character Jim be pressured into identifying publicly as heterosexual This is not a trivial point and is the kind of situation many gay men have confronted in a hostile society but in Vidal s hands it feels transparent and lumpenBy creating a somewhat blank slate protagonist Vidal has created a somewhat correspondingly insoluble conundrum There is nothing wrong with Jim being an inarticulate non cerebral character after all even dummies can love and desire deeply But Vidal has to fill an entire novel with this guy and the sense of his maturation does not match the life experiences he goes through in the story Jim has a love affair he s unsatisfied He has another and is still unsatisfied and on and on There are moments of surface introspection if that s not an oxymoron but barring Jim s ability to intelligently parse his feelings Vidal could have solved this problem by spending time giving us a sense of the confusions in Jim s brain because after all we the readers deserve this if we re going to invest our time and emotions There is a way to get at confused inner thoughts but Vidal rarely takes the time to reveal them I m not sure if this is because Vidal feared making his character and situation too florid or if it was simply a function of not being too explicit during a time when the book would undoubtedly be controversial as it wasWhat the book needed was the French touch not the Hemingway touch instead of leaden plot poetic feeling The penny plainness of it all saps the mysterySociologically though there are merits therein The Hollywood and New York parties Vidal describes are fascinating for the explanation of gay codes and the descriptions of the various subsets of gay men the manly gays versus the flamboyant ueens the latter being so repugnant to Jim Also interesting is the desire by many of the gay men to seduce and conuer the straight man to smoke out the presumed bisexuality that he deniesWhile trotting along with yawn inducing Jim on his adventures we are introduced at the halfway mark in the book to a jaded young writer named Paul Sullivan clearly patterned after Vidal himself and all of a sudden the life essence missing heretofore springs up Paul is a cerebral interesting character who has thought profoundly about his situation as both an outsider artistic soul and gay man In characterizing Paul s plight Vidal hits pay dirt and I kept saying to myself Here s the damned book Vidal should have written Paul is interesting Paul thinks interestinglyThe concept of unreuited yearning longing of love held in abeyance of creating and holding an ideal of someone that may or may not jibe with reality these kinds of feelings expressed in adult fiction are among the primary reasons I read novels In this book the idea of futilely sought and elusive happiness is certainly a noble and worthy one but given its preference of incident over thought during the longueurs I was not persuaded or movedThis book was a first and admirable attempt at waking people up and Vidal chose not to wear his heart on his sleeve too much in writing it and it undoubtedly sent a signal to people that they were not alone in the world That is fine and even commendable and the book is a landmark But landmarks serve a purpose uite apart from art and acknowledging the importance of the milestone does not make the art immune from criticism It s a historically interesting book but for me it is an unsatisfactory work that didn t resonateKRKy 2016

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The City and the Pillar

A literary cause célèbre when first published than fifty years ago Gore Vidal's now classic The City and the Pillar stands as a landmark novel of the gay experienceJim a handsome all American athlete has always been shy around girls But when he and his best friend Bob partake in awful kid stuff. Time had stopped Head down to the visitor s attractions of earth open wishes What were you dreaming when it hit Asteroid eyes rove the green eyed monsters monumentally frozen into mountainsides You get what you paid and sold The secret smile cried into cold dead hands Hold the palm shut to make stick in after life Jim in the dark wonders that everyone doesn t know What the bulges in trousers must have invited They dance by tables in whirls of what to wear or does it always look that way Everyone is good looking in the kind that says walking away Behind the cut hands they I can never tell which because they don t live long enough to touch the soul They know everyone knows Oh you know that movie star He s that way Jim doesn t live long enough to touch as he passes through speeches from lights camera action He s a kept man and a sigh escapes to condemn his fate Where are you going where have you been Who were you with eyes ask over backs Now a not so good it is implied in how no one can ever love him enough author borrows the young tennis player into his bed It is only stealing People look away and the world turns without it What does the world care if you get warm and hard with a man If you could walk the hole in your heart to China that Cyndi Lauper song yeah with your hands tied behind your back I m not not that way The not knowing the lyrics kind of hum I m sure Lauper had a song like that in the 80s and people got dressed up in dyes to make a statement I don t know what it was supposed to say if it said anything Then or now If it didn t vibrate to the moon what was any of it good for The parties and the bars the couples and you must have a girl somewhere What were they wearing and who were they with No where to go Once upon a time Jim adored unadorned Bob Don t call it love for this is something else not that way Before there were girls you must have stashed away somewhere where are all of these loose girls coming from If they were this fast I still cannot imagine the slut coughing circa WWII was good for them any than ueer jokes were for the men There was never such thing You weren t looking Get off me don t touch me and it repeats and lathers everywhere asshole glitter A colonel with a girl back home Same old story announced for all of his uiet loves The smile falls when it is said out loud in parties of ueers The grain of the earth falls away to the wood and the distilled oblivion I m not sure what kind of a genius Gore Vidal is My line was electrified from the start of this man falling The blurring around the eyes the don t look I guess people didn t like this book when it came out for saying that homosexual men were everywhere How dare he write such a thing I don t feel in my guts any way that it had to be If society weren t such a hard place to be would the Bob of his dreams be his perfect twin Probably not no The distance pulled me along and kept me away I can see the perfect statute of the teenager without his shirt on in their special cabin On dreams of I m going to run away and leave you He lets him touch him And then he doesn t The dream dies like that around him and I want to touch the insides of the living carcass instead of the outline of the headstones Where did it come from And this black scapes world is corner of the eyes and feeds on nothing They share space and bide time I liked this book a lot but I didn t love it when I didn t break my heart too and leave me a message I don t live in secret smiles of what no one knows because it isn t true It doesn t matter what anyone knows if you won t listen You can t have Bob and they can t have you My heart breaks somewhere else than the lies of dream color dressing Somewhere there is a statue of Bob s pillow tears when he s helpless to Jim who no longer wants to just ask Somewhere before Jim didn t know what it meant to only be a kept man Something I don t know Somewhere where the guts are still churning something to throw up They don t know already what you don t know and they don t know you they don t I will definitely read of Gore Vidal s fiction The man sure can write the blazes off the sun and stick it where it doesn t shine It was almost enough to go with the back breaking To die on if not to feed I can see Jim without guile because he has everything to hide from himself He opens his mouth and the dark covers the trail And then he stops It felt cruel and it felt already dead in this one secret that maybe shouldn t have been louder than it all From house to party to bed and fleeing uestions If the exterior suggests the tragic he wins If I m lost with nothing on the inside then I am losing I don t know what happens in bedrooms and cold hands and tomorrow might be long but there s to stir than what people might be saying You know like that I can t believe I m doing this again I felt let down not even trying to describe Alfred Chester s crackling humor and I m not even going to try again How do I describe the pit fall in your stomach as you laugh Oh but I love it I can t set it off into the world to live with me but I say now that I love it It is in another land than cruel The twist at the lips says if you aren t going to admit it I will and once it is said it is alive in the worldHe did not believe in heaven or hell He thought it most unlikely that there was a special place where good people went particularly when no one was certain just what a good person was much less what the final repository was like What did happen The idea of nothing frightened him and death was probably nothing no earth no people no light no time no thing Jim looked at his hand It was tanned and suare and covered with fine gold hairs He imagined the hand as it would be when he was dead limp pale turning to earth He stared for a long time at the hand which was certain to be earth one day Decay and nothing yes that was the future He was chilled by a cold animal fear There must be some way to cheat the earth which like an inexorable magnet drew men back to it But despite the struggle of ten thousand generations the magnet was triumphant and sooner or later his own particular memories would be spilled upon the ground Of course his dust would be absorbed in other living things and to that degree at least he would exist again though it was plain enough that the specific combination which was he would never exist again

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N Upon finally encountering Bob years later the force of his hopes for a life together leads to a devastating climax The first novel of its kind to appear on the American literary landscape The City and the Pillar remains a forthright and uncompromising portrayal of sexual relationships between m. Update I just read this author s The Messiah No matter what one might think about this author s writing ability one has to admit he was not afraid to take on any subject which did indeed end all of his political aspirations Review This title shouts to us I m meaningful and important Read me with respect I was ready to dislike this book I found the opening chapters ridiculously childlike And then the characters grow up the writing gets better Then tough decisions have to be made And then suddenly it ended this is a 200 page one sit read thus an admirable construction in story and events I noticed the terms rolling stone and in cold blood was this their origins Was this the first time words like ueen and trade appeared in a bestseller as descriptions of the world Vidal depicts Was that Truman Capote appearing as Rolly For me this is major flaw of the novel this character perhaps a vicious stab in the back to a literary friendenemy Very unkind Vidal was warned that if he published this book his political aspirations were over Check His publisher warned him that if he published this book Vidal would still be attacked for it in twenty years 1968 Check So now it s 2015 It s been 67 years since this book was published and there are places in America where it seems not a single note of this story has changed There is a pitch perfect ending which in essence John Updike used in his brilliant Rabbit Run in 1960 12 years later This novel is good Vidal to be admired for his courage But due to several unfortunate choices of character descriptions and a few pointless racialethnic slurs with an emphasis on pointless nothing was added to the story by their utilization we didn t learn anything about how someone in the 1940s might think and talk absolutely no excuse for Vidal there are flaws Vidal may have unintentional provided a blueprint creating stereotypes that are still unfortunately with us today But what courage it must have taken to hand this over to a publisher in 1948 and under his own name one associated with politics in the USA I find I have to appreciate that


10 thoughts on “The City and the Pillar

  1. says:

    An interesting capsule of its time The City and the Pillar examines the nuances of ueer identity at the height of the closet Set again

  2. says:

    So few of my GR friends have read this and other Gore Vidal classics I have to pose the uestion where does Vidal stand in the American pantheon? Do his historical novels about the Republic turn readers off for their political content and supposedly dry writing? Does his late career as polemicist and hired mouthpiece present him as a

  3. says:

    Time had stopped Head down to the visitor's attractions of earth open wishes What were you dreaming when it hit Asteroid eyes rove the green eyed monsters monumentally frozen into mountainsides You get what you paid and sold The secret smile cried into cold dead hands Hold the palm shut to make stick in after life Jim in the dark w

  4. says:

    35 rounded upI'm pretty sure I read this a long long time ago but the memory is rather vague As the first in a planned year long look

  5. says:

    Be warned Goodreads will recommend this book to you automatically if you've read OTHER VOICES OTHER ROOMS by Truman Capote Gore Vidal and Truman Capote were both gay men and both Southerners Both became literary sensations right after World War II by writing about homosexuality with frankness at a time when it was still absolutely forbidden to discuss the subject in publicGranting all that however the two of them really have nothi

  6. says:

    Nothing is 'right' Only denial of instinct is wrong There is a great and epic operatically tragic story of gay desire in The City and the Pillar and it is thisJim Willard is uncertain and confused in his adolescent sexuality One perfect summer night by the moonlight he and his best friend Bob Ford are romping about in the nude by the lake splashing and shouting and reveling in their youthfulness They begin to wrestle and suddenly

  7. says:

    Update I just read this author's The Messiah No matter what one might think about this author's writing ability one has to admit he was not a

  8. says:

    This is a great book a good read Gore Vidal explores relationships particularly homosexual relationships tasteful

  9. says:

    Vidal's tragic gay love story was no doubt brave and groundbreaking for it's time but imitators have diminished the story and contemporary readers will likely find the themes cliche Like so many of his literary contemporaries the character of Jim struggles to reconcile his physical desires with his yearning to live a normal heterose

  10. says:

    This is Gore Vidal's second novel The content coming of age as a homosexual male had him blacklisted for 6 years Undaunted he published under a

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