Jay Parini (left) shared friendship and conversation with Gore Vidal for 30 years.

Jay Parini, the D.E. Axinn Professor of English and Creative Writing, has never shied away from literary challenges — novels about Melville and Tolstoy, definitive biographies of Frost, Steinbeck, and Faulkner. He even wrote a biography of Jesus.

But capturing the life of Gore Vidal would be different. Because Parini is part of the story.

Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal is hitting bookstores now, and critics are talking.

The tale of how all of this came to be is the cover story of the fall issue of Middlebury Magazine. With the publication about to hit mailboxes across the country, we offer this advance look at “A Tale of Two Writers.”

With reporting by Matt Jennings, Illustration by Steve Brodner.