GORE VIDAL | 1925-2012
Novelist, essayist, and political commentator, Gore Vidal passed away at his home in Los Angeles on Tuesday evening, the cause of death believed to be complications from pneumonia. I will comment on the meaning of his departure through the door marked exit in the coming days, for he was someone who meant and continues to mean a great deal to me because of his contribution to American letters and the American novel, through Julian, Myra Breckinridge, and Lincoln, yet from whom I was frequently forced to distance myself from politically during his final years.
I have posted a good deal about Vidal in the past, critically in the most part. In July 2010, I questioned the political positions he adopted after September 11, namely his emphasis on isolation and his view that the attacks on the World Trade Center were an inside job. In December 2011, I raised how best to handle the fact that Vidal had a tendency to bring to bear the Jewish question in context where it was particularly appropriate. And in a letter to the New Statesman published October 2010, I argued that given his fragile physical and mental condition, magazine like theirs shouldn’t be granting a platform to Vidal at all.
But I have also blogged wonderful chunks from his novels: a speech by the Roman emperor Julian on the evils of the Christian faith; a warning from Aaron Burr regarding the long, slow slide into senility; and, a verdict on the place of Abraham Lincoln in the pantheon of American presidents. And then there was this, on why Vidal wrote:
The most interesting thing about writing is the way that it obliterates time. Three hours seem like three minutes. Then there is the business of surprise. I never know what is coming next. The phrase that sounds in the head changes when it appears on the page. Then I start probing it with a pen, finding new meanings. Sometimes I burst out laughing at what is happening as I twist and turn sentences. Strange business, all in all. One never gets to the end of it. That’s why I go on, I suppose. To see what the next sentences I write will be.