Skip to main content

Arrivederci Gore Vidal


Gore Vidal, left, with Federico "Fred" Fellini. Photo courtesy Guardian/AP.
I cannot let Gore Vidal's passing go without a brief mention of the huge influence he had on me as a writer, both in terms of encouraging me to love the written word and subversive wit, but also to believe that the writer has a role to play in society as a public provocateur and commentator, both of which Vidal did with vast intelligence, grace, and acerbic, often unforgiving humor.


I had the immense good fortune to meet Mr Vidal a couple of years ago at a Hollywood Hills party, thrown by our wonderful British friend, Stephen Fry, and there was not the slightest disappointment - quite the reverse: I was somewhat terrified of what to say, to avoid appearing foolish.


Gore was in a wheelchair and rather frail, yet still he held court with a kind of imperial glee, very much the man once quoted as saying, "There is not one single human problem that could not be solved if people would simply do as I say."


I told him that I loved his novel, Burr, so much, that I had visited the Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights, Manhattan, where the novel opens, simply to stand in the footsteps of history - and his words.


A sharply satirical account of America's third Vice President (under Thomas Jefferson), Aaron Burr - and a scandalizing history of the early days of the Republic itself - Burr delighted me when I first read it, and opened my eyes to a different way of approaching history - and the present.


At one point in the novel, its narrator, young Charlie Schuyler remarks, "[Burr's morality was] hardly worse than that of anyone else at the time, or now."


I had also greatly enjoyed Mr Vidal's hugely provocative explosion of multi-sexuality, Myra Breckinridge (and I used to know Mike Sarne, who directed the ill-fated movie of it), as well as so many of his other novels and essays and appearances on television and film.


In fact, it is hard for me to think of Gore Vidal without thinking of Federico Fellini (whom Gore called, "Fred") and his glorious 1972 film, Roma, in which Mr Vidal makes an appearance at a noisy al fresco dinner table on the Via Veneto, pronouncing: "What better place than Rome in which to await the end of the world!"  (See the Guardian's excellent piece on Gore Vidal and the cinema.)


Above all, I loved the passion and ferocity with which Gore Vidal skewered politicians of every slant. He was, in his way, quite radical - and what I liked most about him was the fact that, despite his patrician style, he fought for the equality even of those he considered fools - which was a sizable portion of humanity.

Comments

  1. Thank you for introducing me! I've not read him, but will now. xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Jan Marie. I don't think you'll be disappointed: Vidal is a wonderful writer, a superb essayist - and has a wit and humor that you won't forget in a hurry!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Please note that for reasons I have not been able to solve yet, I have enormous difficulty posting replies to comments - so I apologize if you ask a question or just make some wonderful remarks and I am not able to respond. I am working on this, because it is very frustrating, but apparently it involves rewriting some of the code of the template! So do not hold your breath...

Thank you for taking the time to comment, and for reading my blog - Alexander

Popular posts from this blog

The High Tower Apartments and The Long Goodbye

This beautiful apartment complex in Los Angeles is called the Hightower or High Tower Complex (the High Tower name refers to the central elevator, I believe), and was designed in 1935-1936 by architect Carl Kay - and made famous in 1973 by my favorite film, Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye (see Why I Love Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye).


Although Altman used the building as Philip Marlowe's apartment in his somewhat post-modern Long Goodbye (the film plays with references to Old Hollywood and opens and closes with the song, Hooray For Hollywood), the building has another direct connection to Raymond Chandler.


It was apparently the inspiration for Chandler in his book, The High Window (the first Chandler novel I ever read), in which Chandler describes the residence of Philip Marlowe as being on the cliffs above High Tower Drive in a building with a fancy elevator tower. (Thanks to the Society of Architectural Historians Southern California Chapter webpage for that.) 


This ph…

Andrew Hale and Sade

On Thursday evening, we saw our longtime friend Andrew Hale perform with Sade at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, in one of the most beautifully conceived and produced concert performances I have ever seen.

Sade is a rare musician, in that she and the band only write, record and tour every eight to ten years, so that in a very real sense you can measure your life by her.

The band's music is always fresh and always newly conceived - for their previous album, Lovers Rock, they stripped everything down musically to a minimalist sound and banished the saxophone that had been so much a part of Sade's heavily soul- and jazz-influenced style.


The latest album, Soldier of Love, released in 2010, is one of the most tender, moving collections of songs yet, from the astonishingly beautiful Morning Bird, which features exquisite keyboards from Andrew, to the soulful, retro, return-of-the-sax melodies of In Another Time, and the deeply touching, reggae-influenced charm of Babyfather - a partic…

From Dawn to Sunset on the Beach - Pelicans, Whales and Memories of my Father

This post about my father and the ocean is very important to me right now. It was written when we first moved to Santa Cruz, which we insisted on calling Aldabra because it is so magical...
From Dawn to Sunset on the Beach - Pelicans, Whales and Memories of my Father
Living and writing by the ocean - in a spot we like to call Aldabra (which in reality is a remote and very beautiful atoll in the Indian Ocean) - the beach figures large in my thoughts and daily routine.

Usually I wake early, and on occasion I walk at dawn through the waves, past the occasional fisherperson, enjoying the darkness slowly transforming into light, the spray of the breakers, the pull of the tide around my feet, the constant barking of the sea lions, the damp of the ocean mist - and the sight of the sun breaking over the horizon to the east.






Recently, a few days before what would have been his birthday, I thought of my father as I trod the beach at dawn. He came from a tiny Scottish fishing village, Rosehearty, se…