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Just when we thought a double-cheeseburger-eating president had succeeded in decimating pretension with earthiness, Gore Vidal returns to the scene with his trademark elitism. An odd duck in the Joe Sixpack era, Vidal is an aristocratic progressive, an anti-populist leftist as comfortable extolling the virtues of his Italian estate as recalling his old Democratic Party days. But Vidal’s new memoir, with its appropriately rarefied title, Palimpsest, is oddly endearing as he relives his boyhood crush on a fellow St. Albans student and pokes fun at most of his famous contemporaries and at his friends (though the two groups are indistinguishable). Vidal reads at 7 p.m. at Chapters, 1512 K St. NW. $27.50 (which includes a copy of the book). For reservations call (202) 347-5495. (John Cloud)