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Extended Audio Sample Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal Audiobook, by Jay Parini Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jay Parini Narrator: John Lescault, Patrick Cullen Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2015 ISBN: 9781504671330
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An intimate, authorized, yet frank biography of Gore Vidal (1925–2012), one of the most accomplished, visible, and controversial American novelists and cultural figures of the past century.

The product of thirty years of friendship and conversation, Jay Parini’s Empire of Self probes behind the glittering surface of Gore Vidal’s colorful life to reveal the complex emotional and sexual truth underlying his celebrity-strewn life. But there is plenty of glittering surface as well—a virtual who’s who of the American Century, from Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart through the Kennedys, Princess Margaret, and the crème de la crème of Hollywood.

The life of Gore Vidal was an amazingly full one—full of colorful incident, famous people, and lasting achievements—that calls out for careful evocation and examination. Jay Parini crafts Vidal’s life into an accessible, entertaining story that puts the experience of one of the great American figures of the postwar era into context, introduces the author and his works to a generation who may not know him, and looks behind the scenes at the man and his work in ways never possible before his death. Provided with unique access to Vidal’s life and his papers, he excavates many buried skeletons yet never loses sight of his deep respect for Vidal and his astounding gifts. This is the biography Gore Vidal has long needed.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A book that has everything: sex and humor, American history, even wisdom. One of the finest biographies of recent years.”

    Gay Talese, #1 New York Times bestselling author

  • “His deep knowledge of Vidal makes this book a masterpiece of biography.”

    Erica Jong, New York Times bestselling author

  • “The incomparable wit, the literary genius, the dazzling friends, the staggering output, the politics, the sex, the drink, the dreadful mother, and the awful last days—it’s all here. It’s like, for a time, enjoying Gore’s priceless company again. This is as good as biography gets.”

    Dick Cavett, former talk show host and New York Times bestsellling author

  • “Parini…pulls no punches in this posthumous biography, admiring Vidal from a distance but scrutinizing him up close…Parini finds the man beneath the accomplishments.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “Marvelous…A portrait that is both affectionate and balanced.”


  • “What distinguishes Parini’s account is…its sympathy…Parini doesn’t flinch at the sad spectacle of Vidal’s last years.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Pulsates with intelligence, scholarship, and heart.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Parini’s access to Vidal and his thoughtful reflections on him establish this as the definitive biography of a major writer.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Lively and insightful, this book should find favor among lovers of literature and biography. It’s got heart.”

    Library Journal

  • “Narrator John Lescault gives an appropriately dry performance of this audiobook…an exemplary entry to the genre of literary biography. Lescault’s narration reflects the temperament and wit of Vidal as well as the academic yet approachable writing of Parini. Listeners familiar with Vidal’s writing and life will enjoy the detailed account found here; listeners new to Vidal will find this a suitable starting point to the life of the man and his work.”


  • “An intimate portrait…Written with élan and confident erudition, Empire of Self is one of the most engaging biographies of our time.”

    James Atlas, author of Delmore Schwartz

  • “Jay Parini has written a clear-eyed, level, captivating, and brilliantly paced biography of the liveliest and most ferocious American writer of the last century, the King of Zing, Gore Vidal…This brisk and vital account convinces that Vidal has not diminished with time; it’s our pages that got small.”

    Brad Gooch, author of Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor

  • A Carnegie Medal for Literature Longlist Selection
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month for October 2015
  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice
  • A Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015 for Nonfiction
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About the Author

Jay Parini is Axinn Professor of English at Middlebury College, Vermont. His six novels also include Benjamin’s Crossing and The Apprentice Lover. His volumes of poetry include The Art of Subtraction: New and Selected Poems. In addition to biographies of Gore Vidal, John Steinbeck, Robert Frost, and William Faulkner, he has written a volume of essays on literature and politics, as well as The Art of Teaching. He edited the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature and writes regularly for the Guardian and other publications.

About the Narrators

John Lescault, a native of Massachusetts, is a graduate of the Catholic University of America. He lives in Washington, DC, where he works in theater.

John Lescault, a native of Massachusetts, is a graduate of the Catholic University of America. He lives in Washington, DC, where he works in theater.