Lincoln, by Gore Vidal: A Timeless Revealing Master Work

picture of Lincoln and the book cover, Lincoln by Gore Vidal, a revealing master work

Gore Vidal earns much deserved praise for his historical novels. As an author and intellectual, Vidal weighed in on academia, presidents, and whole portions of the American public. His social stances and the profound historical insights he provided resonate strongly still, none more vibrantly than Lincoln; this book illuminates the period from the 16th president’s election, through to his assassination.

Key Attribute: Timeless and Revealing

Mr. Vidal takes you into intensely personal conversations of Lincoln’s day. These talks were not heard or recorded, yet it is what must have been said and done, given well-established history. So, consider this work historical fiction given his contextual embellishment. But he keeps the historical line crisply intact, and brings it alive. However categorized, it is powerful, credible, and moving.

It is timeless, in part owing to his extensive research, which he richly carries into his writing. His craft and style lack nothing. He cultivates everything from political positioning, to the language and dialects of the day, to the culture and travails of the people, rich and poor.

Lincoln delivers premium political and social context. It succeeds more than normal to ‘pass the test of time’. The details of Washington DC in those days, and his unique slog through the Civil War, are phenomenal. Yet, I did not see this novel called out among his best. I marvel that he wrote so deeply and prolifically before word processors and the like.

The most revealing aspect of Lincoln, the most riveting and telling dimension of this Gore Vidal truth telling, is the treatment of specific characters and their behaviors. You can find the updated versions of these characters in tonight’s breaking news. Yes, history repeats.

Conclusion: Master Work

Lincoln is a master work which could not have been written without respect for truth and a brave willingness to promote it. Since he maintains a fact basis, Mr. Vidal would appreciate today’s notion of explanatory journalism.

Vidal harbored hates, or at least strong controversial opinions. He said of himself: ā€œIā€™m exactly as I appear. There is no warm, lovable person inside. Beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water.ā€ His was cold hard truth; it still reveals.

If you regard Lincoln in context of Vidal’s work and social stances, this book indicates he is at least somewhat vindicated for those at-the-time controversial stances. Vidal and this work is a strong add to today’s American wakeup call.

A Final Note on Lincoln, a novel by Gore Vidal

As an old Illinois boy with shelves full of Lincoln books, I flirted with the idea of re-reading this big fat novel. Finally, I did read it again and ended up trapped for a bit in its inciteful depths. It soothed the hungry beast. And then, I read it again haphazardly, randomly opening it to find new nuance and provocation about human nature and society, especially politics. It reveals so much. I had to deliberately put it away.

So, beware; do not let it become your night stand Bible. I had to deliberately put it away. Just as right-wing-types in his day were not friendly to Vidal, Lincoln could end up on today’s banned book list (if they manage to get to it).

In my corporate days, a memo or email might be accompanied with an almost militaristic command: READ AND RESPOND. Here I just thank you for reading, and welcome you to share or let me know what you think.