Books: The Veneer of the Gilded Age EMPIRE

by Gore Vidal; Random House; 486 pages; $22.50

This novel is the fifth installment of a burgeoning saga that might be called "The U.S. According to Gore." Vidal's ambitious retelling and revamping of American history began on a modest scale with Washington, D.C. (1967), a novel set in the middle of this century that mixed real and fictional people in a struggle for the nation's soul. Then came Burr (1973), a witty revisionist look at the Founding Fathers, as recorded by Aaron Burr's amanuensis and illegitimate son Charles Schermerhorn Schuyler. In 1876 (1976), an older Schuyler returned home after years of self-imposed exile to witness both the theft of...

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