Gore Vidal Political Essays

Gore Vidal Political Essays-73
It is inevitably the study of lonely decomposition.” Do you think that’s true about Vidal’s fiction? How do you explain the intensity of Vidal’s dislike of Truman Capote? And Gore didn’t ever show any sign of being a traditional gay man. Gore really invented it: talking on television, debating people, writing political essays. The hard work and the bright energy and the wit are always counterbalanced by the dark side. And then, when he became completely lonely and an alcoholic, it would have been cruel to abandon Gore.I think that’s true and I think Gore’s books are all acts of solo talking. And also he thought Truman represented the worst of the career-seeking climber of social ladders because Gore was that himself, but he did it with subtlety. He said that he never turned down television or sex. He knew that he risked being dismissed as simply a character, an entertainer, which to some degree he was. I think that whole generation is looking suddenly very interesting to us. I would think that it would be an unhappy way to live. Vidal liked to say he didn’t care what happened to his work after he died. So I just decided to go in the opposite direction and try to help him. But Gore was alert to the fact that I was a biographer. Gore, I think, knew in many ways his greatest work of art was his life, and to have a hopefully sophisticated take on that life with the appropriate respect for him as a human being and as a working artist and public intellectual—I mean, on some level, that’s got to please him.And hence his sexual life was cut off or split off from his emotional life. It was strange because he lived in a time when there was this huge revolution in gay rights. Mailer wrote something about Vidal’s novels that I think is very true: “The difficulty of writing in a narcissistic vein is that one’s heroes are hermetically sealed in upon themselves. So Gore has the one voice, but he puts different clothes or costumes on the character, but it’s just Gore. And when the essayistic voice penetrates the novels, they become really interesting novels. Vidal famously feuded with other novelists, but he seemed to admire Saul Bellow. And he would read my books and manuscripts and give me great suggestions.

It is inevitably the study of lonely decomposition.” Do you think that’s true about Vidal’s fiction? How do you explain the intensity of Vidal’s dislike of Truman Capote? And Gore didn’t ever show any sign of being a traditional gay man. Gore really invented it: talking on television, debating people, writing political essays. The hard work and the bright energy and the wit are always counterbalanced by the dark side. And then, when he became completely lonely and an alcoholic, it would have been cruel to abandon Gore.I think that’s true and I think Gore’s books are all acts of solo talking. And also he thought Truman represented the worst of the career-seeking climber of social ladders because Gore was that himself, but he did it with subtlety. He said that he never turned down television or sex. He knew that he risked being dismissed as simply a character, an entertainer, which to some degree he was. I think that whole generation is looking suddenly very interesting to us. I would think that it would be an unhappy way to live. Vidal liked to say he didn’t care what happened to his work after he died. So I just decided to go in the opposite direction and try to help him. But Gore was alert to the fact that I was a biographer. Gore, I think, knew in many ways his greatest work of art was his life, and to have a hopefully sophisticated take on that life with the appropriate respect for him as a human being and as a working artist and public intellectual—I mean, on some level, that’s got to please him.And hence his sexual life was cut off or split off from his emotional life. It was strange because he lived in a time when there was this huge revolution in gay rights. Mailer wrote something about Vidal’s novels that I think is very true: “The difficulty of writing in a narcissistic vein is that one’s heroes are hermetically sealed in upon themselves. So Gore has the one voice, but he puts different clothes or costumes on the character, but it’s just Gore. And when the essayistic voice penetrates the novels, they become really interesting novels. Vidal famously feuded with other novelists, but he seemed to admire Saul Bellow. And he would read my books and manuscripts and give me great suggestions.

The age of the laundry-list biography should be long over. I always say a hundred years from now he’ll be known as a kind of figure on the scene, a public intellectual who wrote these scintillating essays.

Norman Mailer once said, I think incorrectly, that Vidal lacked the wound as a novelist. And all he could do was grasp onto the fact that his grandfather—who was remote, blind, and old—was a senator. So Gore didn’t really have these aristocratic roots he liked to claim. Myra Breckenridge might be looked at by sociologists because it’s a post-sexual, transsexual novel. What do you think Gore would have thought of your book? Because one thing a narcissist doesn’t like is to look in a mirror that is in anyway genuinely reflective of what’s on the other side of it.

And he desperately clung to any shred of background that could help promote him. It’s very strange the way he used the word “faggot “much the way some African Americans use the N word…Yes, but I’d say the word he used most [when referring to himself and other homosexuals] was the word “degenerate.” You know, he would ask me about someone and say, “Well, is he a degenerate like me? There is very little that he said about politics that doesn’t have some resonance today.

Vidal liked to claim that he had ice in his veins—and that he was incapable of love. ” To use that phrase for a gay man is a sign of self-devaluation. And yet a lot of his prejudices didn’t change over the years. He must have been an incredibly difficult person to know. I ask myself a thousand times why I put up with it.

The following is an edited version of our conversation. You only have one opportunity like this to write a book about somebody you knew that well. And Gore had said to me, “Write whatever you want to write. And don’t worry about me, I’ll be dead.”One of the virtues of your book, I must say, is its manageable length.

Jay Parini: I hope people realize that this book really strips away the mask. I think it’s imperative nowadays for biographers to write concisely.Vidal’s hit play, The Best Man, was revived on Broadway as recently as 2012.But he was perhaps equally well-known for his television duels with Norman Mailer and William F. His most enduring work, though, will likely be his elegant, witty, and often prescient political essays collected in United States: Essays 1952-92.Yet whatever vulnerability he displayed in the green room disappeared on camera where he seemed as confident and omniscient as the narrator of a novel by one of his literary heroes, Henry James.In 2012, Vidal died and, one hopes, went to heaven, where he would no doubt be condescending to God.Yet in your book we find that he loved [his lifelong partner] Howard. So despite his genius he didn’t seem to evolve emotionally. Do you think any novel of Norman Mailer’s is read now? Not one person in the room had heard of Norman Mailer. But early on as a young man I was attracted like a moth to that flame. Then I realized that this was going to become incredibly tedious.He wanted to put a lead shield around himself that said, “Don’t tread on me.” And that was a fear of intimacy. Yes, he stayed the frightened school boy from first to last. A frightened school boy who then creates the mask of the worldly man who is afraid of nothing. Forster, [who could] really tell a story and create dramatic tension and follow a theme. I was teaching a seminar in Middlebury College last year and I asked a group of English majors … But I am by nature a loyal guy, and you know, I was learning from him all the time.We’re in the age of Trump now, for God’s sake, the opposite of an age of discourse. He did write, you know, “Buckley rest in hell,” after Buckley died. Both of them guys from nowhere who had climbed that greasy pole. Listen to the accent that Gore uses in those Buckley-Vidal tapes. Vidal chose to spend much of his life living in Italy. He would claim that it meant that he could focus more intently on America at a distance. Political talk is no longer even aspiring to the condition of discourse. But I was surprised to read that he didn’t really speak Italian. That allowed him to think more objectively about the U. by Jay Parini Gore Vidal is a novelist, essayist, playwright, and provocateur whose career has spanned six decades, beginning in the years immediately following World War II and continuing into the early years of the twenty-first century.In addition to a major sequence of seven novels about American history, and such satirical novels as MYRA BRECKINRIDGE and DULUTH, he has written dozens of television plays, film scripts, and even three mystery novels written under a pseudonym.

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