The Smithsonian Institution

THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION Gore Vidal (Random House, $23) If you could go back in time to prevent the development of the atom bomb, would you? Such is the dilemma facing T., the high school hero of Gore Vidal’s latest semi-science fictional stew of history, sexuality, and politics. After doodling an equation on a math exam, T. is lured to the Smithsonian, where, unbeknownst to most visitors, all sorts of odd experiments on the nature of light, time, and space are conducted after closing time. T.’s formula proves the key to time travel, and, with the help of Mrs. Grover Cleveland (the First Ladies exhibit undergoes a kind of reanimation after hours), the young man decides the key to preventing World War II is preventing World War I — which is to say, preventing Woodrow Wilson from becoming President. Check all disbelief on the first page to appreciate this fun-house ride of What Ifs and What Nexts. A- — Vanessa V. Friedman

The Smithsonian Institution
  • Book