14 comments on “The City and the Pillar

  1. I have been able to find rare books on the internet, there are some re-sellers and it is often cheap. I remember buying a book on Prussia which had been published some 25 years ago and was out of print. I did a bit of research and found it in Australia, got it for $10.
    BTW David, thank you for such a nice blog on theatre and books, really enjoy reading you.

  2. I wonder if the 1948 version if it can be found would be more interesting a read than the 1960 reworked version. I am going to look for the original, am sure it can be found given its widespread distribution.

  3. Did you know that an original 1948 book of The City and The Pillar sells for about $1500 dllrs. Serious dent into my Tim Horton doughnut fund.

  4. I’ve just GOT to give this a go – before I get too old to read! I’m aware of its reputation is as being a seminal book in American literature -or perhaps even in ALL literature. You turn a wish to read it into a necessity.

    I’ve read half a dozen of Vidal’s books and he’s never been an easy read. One of those writers where what you get out of it depends on the effort you made to get inside.
    I still miss his presence badly, especially in these times where his acerbic commentary on matters religious would have been welcomed. He’d have taken such devilish delight in ‘kicking them while they’re down’!

  5. “… applied to the relationship between the characters played by Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd. Heston denied this was true.”

    I’ve seen that NPR interview, and at least one other (Jack Paar, Dick Cavett?) with Gore Vidal saying he and the director William Wyler and Stephen Boyd conspired behind Heston’s back to inject a gay motivation to Boyd’s character Messala’s extreme reaction to being ‘jilted’ by Ben Hur. When you watch the scene of the two men’s reunion in the movie with this knowledge, the look on Boyd’s face is SO rapturous, it’s just shy of comic. He’s about one micron away from grabbing Heston and planting a big kiss on him!

      • Yes, I’ve also heard the interview that Dave refers to. There was a chuckle in Vidal’s voice as he told the story.

  6. Back in the pre-Stonewall days, I used to avidly search and collect gay novels. “The City and the Pillar” was on of those paperback books that I treasured as an insight into the gay life that I had none from my perch in the small Pennsylvania town where I grew up the ONLY homosexual in the world. I recognized immediately that Gore Vidal was an excellent writer and enjoyed reading “The City and Pillar” even though it was depressing but those were “the times” so it wasn’t all that unusual to me. I couldn’t read a book like that today. Reading a book that depicted homosexuals as “almost” normal people was such a revelation to me at that time. I felt there was hope for me and that perhaps I wasn’t a demented pervert headed straight to hell just because I wanted a loving relationship with a man and not a woman. I have a box of pre-Stonewall “homosexual books” tucked away in my closet. Of course they will probably be thrown away once I depart this earthly existence but knowing there are there now gives me a strange comfort. After Stonewall, the only “gay” books I could find were fuck books (for lack of a better word). Gone were the “homosexual” books where the main character sought and sometimes found a loving relationship with another man and didn’t commit suicide at the end of the book. Now the gay books are all about ridiculously handsome men with impossible bodies in endless and unbelievable sexual romps. Gone is the day of true gay literature. “The City and the Pillar” was groundbreaking for it’s time. “Giovanni’s Room” was another one. You might want to check that out too. Good post! 🙂

    • Thanks for your comments. You should check to see whether your copy of the book was the original text or the revised text. If it is the original I would love to read it sometime. I would only want to borrow it however since it appears the original versions are quite valuable.

      There are actually quite a number of wonderful gays books written in the 80’s and 90’s. One of my favorites is called Hometowns. It is a collection of essays both gay authors talking about the towns they grew up in or the towns they chose to make their home.

      • My copy (paperback) is an original. I think I paid 75 cents for it. That shows you how old it was. I think all of my gay book (all paperbacks) I purchased before I went into the Army in 1960. I used to go to a small store in West Chester, PA. They sold paperbacks but way in the back on the lower rack occasionally a book with a “homosexual” theme appeared. It was the only place I could ever find a book with a “homosexual” theme. Now I think I know why, the owner of the store had to be gay. You’re given me an idea for a blog posting. I’ll have to take some photos of those old books. They were such a comfort to me because, reading them at that time (1957 to 1959) I realized that I was not alone in the world as a gay man. Now gay people take openness for granted. Sometimes I wish I could read a good book with a gay theme but I haven’t found one in years. The only ones that I have found are the “pumper” books and to me they’re nothing. I would rather jerk off to a good video.

      • If we can figure out a way to coordinate it sometime I would love to borrow the book. I am fascinated to compare the two to see what the differences are aside from the ending itself.

        There are lots of resources our to locate gay books (of the non-wank variety). Triangle Publishing has a list http://www.publishingtriangle.org/100best.asp.
        Amazon also has a list of reader recommendations.
        Wikipedia has a list of authors who write gay-themed material as well as a book list.

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