Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The death of a great one

Gore Vidal has been pretty popular in our house over the years.  My S.O. read Lincoln several years ago and then proceeded to read the rest of his historical fiction.  I am not into fiction so much but I loved his political commentary.  He had two things going for him.
  • In a USA where the overwhelming majority see the world as America and those other places, Vidal understood that there other places on earth where educated people of good taste actually prefer to live. Many of his best pieces were written in Italy.
  • He was an excellent historian who had been given an insider's view of the folks who actually get to run things.  Like the preacher's kid who discovers his old man isn't any more connected to God than anyone else, Vidal grew up knowing that powerful politicians were usually corrupt, not very bright, and easily distracted by the pleasures of the flesh.  And from that perspective, he assumed the historical figures he wrote about were much the same.
And he was probably correct on that. He certainly was entertaining.

Here is an obit from France 24 on his passing.


Gore Vidal, celebrated author, playwright, dies at 86

Gore Vidal, the author, playwright and commentator, whose work was full of acerbic observations on politics, sex and American culture, died on Tuesday at the age of 86. Vidal's literary legacy includes novels such as “The City and the Pillar”.

By Nicolas Germain (video)
News Wires (text)

REUTERS - Writer Gore Vidal, who filled his intellectual works with acerbic observations on politics, sex and American culture while carrying on feuds with his big-name literary rivals, died on Tuesday at the age of 86, Los Angeles Times reported.

“Vidal died Tuesday at his home in the Hollywood Hills of complications of pneumonia,” the newspaper said, quoting the author’s nephew Burr Steers.

Vidal’s literary legacy includes a series of historical novels—“Burr,” “1876,” “Lincoln” and “The Golden Age” among them—as well as the campy transexual comedy “Myra Breckenridge.”

He started writing as a 19-year-old soldier stationed in Alaska, basing “Williwaw” on his World War Two experiences. His third book, “The City and the Pillar,” created a sensation in 1948 because it was one of the first open portrayals of a homosexual main character.

Vidal referred to himself as a “gentleman bitch” and was as egotistical and caustic as he was elegant and brilliant.

In addition to rubbing shoulders with the great writers of his time, he banged heads with many of them. Vidal considered Ernest Hemingway a joke and compared Truman Capote to a “filthy animal that has found its way into the house.”

His most famous literary enemies were conservative pundit William F. Buckley Jr. and writer Norman Mailer, who Vidal once likened to cult killer Charles Manson.

Mailer head-butted Vidal before a television appearance and on another occasion knocked him to the ground.

Vidal and Buckley took their feud to live national television while serving as commentators at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Vidal accused Buckley of being a “pro-crypto-Nazi” while Buckley called Vidal a “queer” and threatened to punch him.

Vidal seemed to make no effort to curb his abundant ego.

In a 2008 interview with Esquire magazine Vidal said people were always seemed impressed that he had met so many famous people, such as Jacqueline Kennedy and William Burroughs.

“People always put that sentence the wrong way around,” he said. “I mean, why not put it the true way - that these people got to meet me, and wanted to?” more

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