Gore Vidal Political Essays

Gore Vidal Political Essays-72
Parini’s mercifully concise 460-page biography of this writer, public intellectual, and champion name dropper is larded with anecdotes, put-downs, and epigrams by and about an astonishing parade of the rich, brilliant, and famous.

Parini’s mercifully concise 460-page biography of this writer, public intellectual, and champion name dropper is larded with anecdotes, put-downs, and epigrams by and about an astonishing parade of the rich, brilliant, and famous.

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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.

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.

Now, three years later, we have Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal, Jay Parini’s admiring but unblinkingly honest portrait of the self-mythologizing, self-aggrandizing literary titan and TV celebrity.

Vidal, as every reader—or at least every reader of my generation—knows, was famous as the author of the gender-bending classic comedic novel Myra Breckinridge; highly literate, best-selling novels about American history, including Burr, 1876, and Lincoln; and two splendid memoirs, Palimpsest and Point to Point Navigation.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.Vidal’s lineage in American literature may be traced back to Henry James, the sophisticated American from the upper echelons of society who mingles with European sophisticates, and Mark Twain, the raw humorist and critic of American empire.Early Years Vidal was born in 1925 with high political and social connections.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.But also the large difference between them was that Gore kept working really, really hard. But do you think that doing all that TV hurt his literary reputation? He squandered a lot of his literary capital on television. We are in the moment of nostalgia for an age when public intellectuals would swing bats in the world. Certainly he and Mailer reconciled in a fairly genuine way. Well, because he is a man who is already cut off from the people around him. Did you have any sense of betrayal as you removed one mask after another. How do you explain the renewed interest in the intellectual figures of his era? Nowadays public intellectuals are so out of the limelight, they don’t really have a voice. But Buckley to the end, he felt was his bitter enemy. 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.

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