The City And The Pillar

This looks to be a book after my own heart– good writing, drunk characters, what more do you need? In the first chapter, Jim Willard sits alone in a booth, swirling whiskey and water, time stopping and getting lost in drunkenness. He fends off a woman who attempts to engage him in conversation and sundry other things. He wonders where he is, besides in a bar in a city. He wonders what city he’s in.
Now finished with this delightful novella. To summarize the story, Jim is in love with Bob, with whom he has an erotic weekend with during high school at the old slave quarters by the pond. Bob ships off to sea and in the next year Jim also sets sail to find him. The story follows Jim on cruise ships up to Alaska, off to LA where he becomes a tennis instructor for Ronnie Shaw, meets Sullivan, heads off to New Orleans with Sullivan, meets Maria, they live in the Yucatan for a winter, then Jim joins the Army. Eventually discharged medically after arthritis sets in, Jim ends up in NYC owning part of a tennis instructorship business. Seven years after he left home, he returns, and finally reunites with Bob again, who is married and a father. Jim invites Bob to visit him when in NYC, which Bob does a year later. After getting Bob drunk, Jim attempts to seduce him, resulting in Bob’s refusal then rape. Jim proceeds to head off to drink away his troubles, which is where we pick him up in the beginning.
Certain passages are deliriously succinct:
“The hot sun warmed him. The blood moved fast in his veins. He was conscious of the fullness of life. He existed in the present. That was enough.”


auth=Vidal, Gore
pub=1948
sub=And Seven Early Stories

1 thought on “The City And The Pillar”

  1. Coincidence? Molly brought that home from the library last month and we both tore through it. Vidal’s prose is crisp and fast. Chosing to write about a gay character in the 1950s is profound courage in times of conformity.
    Not long after the quote you have above could be my favorite 6 words in American literature
    “He was home. He was lost.”

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