Tuesday, April 14, 2009

35. The Smithsonian Institution by Gore Vidal

Book Around the States Challenge
District of Columbia

"T. is 13 in 1939 and possesses, albeit unknowingly, the secret formula that will complement Einstein's theory and possibly alter the outcome of history as we know it. Because of his doodles on an algebra exam, the powers that be (and readers are never quite sure until the end who the powers are) arrange for him to be deposited at the doors of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Once inside, he is seduced in the Native American exhibit by a charming young thing he calls Squaw, but who turns out to be Frankie Cleveland, one of the women (a very young one) from the First Ladies exhibit. He soon realizes that the Institution contains many exhibits that come alive when the doors close, as well as laboratories for secret experiments. In his travels, he soon understands that he can visualize mathematical possibilities and respond to Einstein, Oppenheimer, and other scientists who are closed up in the museum along with a lobotomized Abraham Lincoln and even a statue representing T., killed in action during World War II. Obviously, much belief must be suspended and the time-travel episodes and glances at history both as it was and might have been are convoluted, but Vidal does know his American history. Through this disjointed, lightweight page-turner, readers pick up a historical awareness, especially of the presidents, almost painlessly. T.'s coming of age and subsequent romps with Frankie are risqu?, but all in fun and might be a further inducement to read on. An intriguing introduction to Vidal as well as enjoyable historical fiction." Susan H. Woodcock, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

I can't even begin to describe this book except as a mixture of time-travel, sci-fi, historical fiction, satyr and a bit of "Night at the Museum." And I had a hard time following the line of the story at times. Even so, I found Vidal's writing to be enjoyable and humorous; the tidbits about past presidents and other historical figures were fascinating; and the sexual encounters, blech. I think I may have to read some of Vidal's historical fictions. Any suggestions? I also thought this was a great book to read for D.C. Even though I've been to the Smithsonian, there is obviously a lot there that I missed. Rating: 3.75

1 comment:

  1. Aw, no comments on this book? I really liked it, it was just so wonderfully bizarre. I read it flying into DC a few years back.