The City and the Pillar PDF º and the PDF Ê The

The City and the Pillar [Ebook] ➠ The City and the Pillar By Gore Vidal – A literary cause célèbre when first published more than fifty years ago, Gore Vidal's nowclassic The City and the Pillar stands as a landmark novel of the gay experience

Jim, a handsome, al A literary cause and the PDF Ê célèbre when first published than fifty years ago, Gore Vidal's nowclassic The City PDF or The City and the Pillar stands as a landmark novel of the gay experienceJim, a City and the MOBI ï handsome, allAmerican athlete, has always been shy around girls But when he and his best friend, Bob, partake in awful kid stuff, 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 unique bond with Bob and with his persistent attraction to other men 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 men.

10 thoughts on “The City and the Pillar

  1. Michael Michael says:

    An interesting capsule of its time, The City and the Pillar examines the nuances of queer identity at the height of the closet. Set against the backdrop of the Depression and WWII, the story follows all-American Jim Willard as he wanders about the country searching for his tough-minded high school crush Bob Ford, who left the pair’s small Virginian town after graduating a year before Jim. Jim and Bob hooked up on the eve of the latter’s departure, and the former’s desperate to reunite and build a life together. An idealized figure, Bob only appears in the first and last chapters of the novel, and the bulk of the plot concerns Jim’s discovery of gay subcultures across the nation and his internal struggle to accept his attraction to men. In flat prose, full of stark and unsettling images, Vidal gives voice to the despair of a straight-acting, self-hating gay man, and offers satirical and sordid snapshots of gay social life in Roosevelt’s America. The novel’s reactionary politics and Platonic philosophy make it out of step with 2019, though the opening flashback of Jim’s youth is brilliant.

  2. MJ Nicholls MJ Nicholls says:

    So few of my GR friends have read this and other Gore Vidal classics, I have to pose the question: 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 dusty old eminence, far too close to the rich and famous to have any worth as an artist of substance? Can someone born into a wealthy political family, close to JFK and Al Gore, win admiration as a novelist? Answers please. More people should read his eccentric novels—clearly Gore takes more risks than many of his American contemporaries, coming from a refreshingly bisexual perspective, not the rampantly hetero angle of Mailer and Updike. This novel is an excellent early shocker about a teenager’s nascent homosexuality, and probably still provides solace to readers today, despite its 1940s barcode. The writing is concise, unshowy and closely renders the experience in a believable, painful way. I love Vidal for his completely unpretentious, direct, anarchic, sublimely erudite books! Why don’t Americans?

  3. Mariel Mariel 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 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 more than queer 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 quiet loves. The smile falls when it is said out loud in parties of queers. 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 more 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 questions. 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 more 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 world.)

    He 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 square, 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.

  4. Doug Doug says:

    3.5, rounded up.

    I'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 back at some of the seminal works of gay literature, this was de rigueur for a revisit. First off, it is fairly amazing that a book so upfront and forthright about its subject ever got published in 1948. It's not particularly shocking now, but 70 years ago, especially as the work of someone barely 20, the shock waves were deserved.

    But that's part of the problem - the book is definitely the work of a very young, very inexperienced writer, even though it was the third of Vidal's novels, and the version I read is the revised one from 1965, which tried to mitigate against what Vidal reveals in the Intro was a purposely flat prose style. It's STILL rather flat, although the story moves along, and the themes are clear. The ending, however, was changed significantly, and I got a copy of the original so I could compare the two different endings. For my money, the original ending is both more powerful, and just works better. Vidal also truncated Jim's encounter with the stranger in the bar in the final chapter, and it now feels rushed.

  5. Carol Storm Carol Storm 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 public.

    Granting all that, however, the two of them really have nothing in common. Not in terms of temperment, talent, disposition, artistic abilities or even basic goals. It's like comparing Jimi Hendrix to Spike Lee!

    Truman Capote wrote dreamy, romantic prose full of emotion and atmosphere that focuses entirely on the deepest feelings of his characters. Gore Vidal wrote hard, flat, angry prose that used characters merely as stick figures to make whatever political or social points he was trying to get across. Capote loved to charm. Vidal loved to outrage. Capote was more interested in feelings than in ideas. Vidal was more interested in ideas than feelings.

    THE CITY AND THE PILLAR is a gay coming of age story, much like OTEHR VOICES, OTHER ROOMS. Except that in this story the hero comes to despise his first love, and all the men who come after that, and the human race in general, and himself most of all. All the descriptions are ugly, flat, and lifeless, and the characters are barely recognizable as human beings with feelings and regrets. This book is ugly and unpleasant and has very little appeal to a sensitive reader. It's not even a strident rallying cry for gay rights -- more of a strident exclamation of disgust at life in general.

    Which continued to be Vidal's theme for the next fifty years. But it felt like much, much longer.

  6. Evan Evan 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 this:
    Jim 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 more 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 square 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 ways.

    For 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 more. 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 wants.

    And then, finally -- courting heartbreak or ecstasy -- he meets Bob again.

    I 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 valid.

    Unfortunately, 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 boring.

    Even 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-esque blocks of grey prose, a literary style popular among young writers at the time -- which he was also correct about.

    But 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 quite 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 more 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 perspective.

    I read the 1965 revised version, so I felt out to sea in trying to replicate in my mind the experience of the typical 1948 reader.

    All 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 critique for that author.

    As 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-square conversations from an old movie.

    Because 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 lumpen.

    By 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 more 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 was.

    What the book needed was the French touch, not the Hemingway touch; instead of leaden plot, more poetic feeling. The penny plainness of it all saps the mystery.

    Sociologically, 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 more flamboyant queens (the latter being so repugnant to Jim). Also interesting is the desire by many of the gay men to seduce and conquer the straight man, to smoke out the presumed bisexuality that he denies.

    While 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 interestingly.

    The concept of unrequited 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 moved.

    This 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 quite 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 resonate.

    (KR@Ky 2016)

  7. Greg Greg 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 afraid to take on any subject, which did indeed end all of his political aspirations.
    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 queen 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 friend/enemy. 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 racial/ethnic 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.

  8. Adam Adam says:

    This is a great book, a good read. Gore Vidal explores relationships, particularly homosexual relationships, tastefully, delicately, and above all elegantly.

    This short book has a cleverly constructed story line. It follows the development of young Jim Willard who develops a serious crush on his school friend Bob Ford just before both of them set off from their home towns to begin their lives in the wider world. Jim encounters a series of colourful characters including a flamboyant gay Hollwood screen actor and an hilarious New York host called Rolloson. Will Jim ever meet Bob again? This is what I kept asking as I read this enticing novel. Read it to find out.

  9. Dan Dan 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 heterosexual life, but Vidal doesn't belabor the point. Instead, he ensconces Jim within the pre-liberation bar scene without defining him by it. Vidal made a concerted effort to sculpt masculine queers - an aim contemporary gay novels don't hold as dear - and while he succeeds at times one wonders if he didn't rely on misogyny to achieve his desired effect. Perhaps, the novel's true legacy is to serve as a document of evolving gay self-identity. Overall, The City and The Pillar merits a read for it's historical importance and for the accuracy of Vidal's prose, just don't expect the same sense of affinity earlier readers found.

    If you liked this, make sure to follow me on Goodreads for more reviews!

  10. Louise Louise 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 pseudonym. Six years later, he published again under his own name, The Judgment of Paris, a different narrative with with the same coming of age content as City showing Vidal as remarkable and daring from the start.

    This novel is better than Judgment which is more narrative and less interior. City gives the reader a glimpse into the emotional life of a young boy (and later, man) as he discovers his sexual and emotional self. Most teens have difficulty handling their high school crush; Jim's is even more difficult despite his high school assets of good looks and athletic success. He cannot make an overt move with Bob to find out, for real, if feelings are shared. He proceeds on assumptions.

    Jim carries his feelings for Bob for years. He has experiences that define the situation of male homosexuals at this place in time. While one of his partners, Shaw, is a professional actor, Jim notes that people he meets in the gay community are the real Academy Award performers as they manage their families and other social interactions.

    Under the radar homosexuality is the only big thing dated here. Most of the dialog could be spoken today. Only a few things stand out as quaint. In NYC, Jim is a partner in a tennis business, which today would never exist since any scrap of land the size of a court has a more cost effective cost/SF with more levels. In CA, Jim is hired by a hotel/club and given an on-site residence with almost no paperwork. In today's world there would be proof of identity, citizenship and most likely a background check. There is a reference to being older, sitting in a store reminiscing... not today's store.

    This 1947 book and Yukio Mishima's 1959 Confessions of a Mask cover roughly the same time period in two very different cultures. Vidal's book shows a freer society. Mishima's character Kochan, has chaperoned dates with females while Jim goes to women's apartments and travels with Maria. Jim goes to parties and social events with other gays and Kochan is socially alone. On a political note, despite the country that makes his very existence illegal, Jim feels compelled to fight in the war and enlists while Kochan avoids the draft.

    The City and the Pillar is an important work for its place, time, content and clarity.

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