Grandeur by design
Despite their relationship, Parini attempts to provide an objective biography of a great narcissist. Vidal’s father, an athlete who became a successful businessman, married the beautiful daughter of the blind Democratic senator Thomas Gore. Husband and wife fought constantly; Vidal’s mother, an alcoholic and promiscuous woman, coldly ignored her only child. A troubled mother invariably creates a troubled son. Vidal sought solace in the company of his adored maternal grandfather. He would read to him, and watch him in the Senate, learning the importance of political rhetoric and realising that great politicians are gifted actors.
From his early days Vidal was convinced of his destiny as a famous writer, or even as president. Although he was to later boast that he came from a distinguished lineage, he was born into a nouveau-riche household. He was a precocious author, writing his first novel, Williwaw, based on his World War II service as first mate on a ship, when he was 21.
It was his third novel, The City and the Pillar (1948), that made his name with its frank depic-