Wednesday, August 01, 2012


From USA Today:

Gore Vidal, celebrated author, playwright, dies

Along with such contemporaries as Norman Mailer and Truman Capote, Vidal was among the last generation of literary writers who were also genuine celebrities — fixtures on talk shows and in gossip columns, personalities of such size and appeal that even those who hadn't read their books knew who they were.


But he was widely admired as an independent thinker — in the tradition of Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken — about literature, culture, politics and, as he liked to call it, "the birds and the bees." He picked apart politicians, living and dead; mocked religion and prudery; opposed wars from Vietnam to Iraq and insulted his peers like no other, once observing that the three saddest words in the English language were "Joyce Carol Oates." (The happiest words: "I told you so").


He adored the wisdom of Montaigne, the imagination of Calvino, the erudition and insight of Henry James and Edith Wharton. He detested Thomas Pynchon, John Barth and other authors of "teachers' novels." He once likened Mailer's views on women to those of Charles Manson's. (From this the head-butting incident ensued, backstage at "The Dick Cavett Show.") He derided Buckley, on television, as a "crypto Nazi." He called The New York Times the "Typhoid Mary of American journalism," labeled Ronald Reagan "The Acting President" and identified Reagan's wife, Nancy, as a social climber "born with a silver ladder in her hand."

More here.

Growing up in a conservative household, the very epitome of right-wing class, style, and intellectualism was, to me, William F. Buckley. But then, as an adult, and very unexpectedly, I moved to the left. What would I do without my smart, cool, man-of-letters hero? I discovered Gore Vidal at some point in the 90s, and he filled that role quite nicely. I've never read any of his literary works, only his cultural and political essays, only a few interviews with him. But that was enough. The man was thorough, and eloquent, and devastating to any and all conservative targets and challengers. He really did have a handle on what it means to be an American in the era in which we currently live.

Here he is flapping the almost always unflappable Buckley during coverage of the 1968 Democratic National Convention:

I'm actually pretty saddened by Vidal's passing. He ended up being a rarity for me, a hero. Farewell Gore Vidal.