Gore Vidal Has Passed Away at Age 86

Author Gore Vidal has died at age 86 of pneumonia. I remember after I read Myra Breckenridge wondering, WTH was that? I’d never read anything like it.
We should all live so long. RIP Mr. Vidal.

And he kissed more boys than Lisa Simpson ever will.

He was one of America’s great essayists. His United States collection contains some fabulous work. I also liked his memoir Palimpsest quite a lot, and i’m a fan of his Narratives of Empire series of historical novels.

He lost it a little bit in his last decade, and his arguments became rather unintelligible and disjointed at times. I was especially disappointed when he defended Roman Polanski, and referred to Polanski’s victim as a “young hooker.”

I’ve heard a few people argue that his sometimes bizarre statements coincided with the period after the death of his long-time partner Howard Austen. I’m not sure if Austen’s death was the cause of Vidal’s decline, but it seems like a plausible explanation.

Anyway, i liked his writing, and i liked his politics, and i think he was a great American man of letters.


I read his “City and the Pillar” when I was a closeted 15 year old. Made me get up the cajones to go out and search for fellow “gays.”

He has gone to live with Jesus now. Which means one of them is going to be very pissed off.

I wish I had photographic evidence, but, years ago G.V. was the subject of a long interview on a British show (The South Bank Show) that aired on Bravo. I CLAUDIUS was also running at the time, and that night was episode 6, the episode entitled “Queen of Heaven” (the one in which Livia makes Claudius swear to make her a goddess).

So the commercial read=
Tonight on Bravo:

E. L. Gore Vidal was, I must admit, somebody I liked the concept of far more than the man. He was so briliant but so… what’s the word- actually it’s several- in fact bitter, bitchy, mean, miserable, and vicious all crouch for employment.

He died a literary Norma Desmond, long since forgotten. (“Myra Who-enridge? Oh man, that was edgy… forty years ago.”) He wrote some brilliant essays, I own a shelf full of his non-fiction, but whatever fiction of his is still in print probably won’t be for long, and it’s not just age- it just didn’t last.

Unlike Truman Capote’s.

Ultimately Gore was Salieri (in the Shafferian sense rather than the historical [an aside reminiscent, if not worthy, of GV’s own] to Tru’s obscene manchild. Capote had a gift Vidal never had, and that was the ability to breathe life into his characters- Gore ALWAYS wrote like somebody who isn’t human trying to envision how humans act and emote and talk. I think this is the reason he hated him: both could chisel one hell of a statue, but while Tru could waltz his Galatea all around the room Gore could never get one of his to so much as halfway wink at him. Holly Golightly will be buckdancing long after Myra/Myron and the whole populations of WASHINGTON D.C. and HOLLYWOOD from 1876 to the end of CREATION are being recycled for use as confetti.

But, otoh, Gore was very very rich, knew everybody who was anybody from Amelia Earhart to…oh, Johnny Carson anyway- and even those who had never read his works respected him even if they weren’t sure why. So, rest in whatever passes for peace, you vicious old queen (of heaven).

The saddest part of his legacy is that in his final decade he descended from provocateur to moonbat conspiracy theorist. I detested the Bush Administration, but Vidal’s comments and writings on it were just damned near silly and frankly unworthy of him. When he wrote- at length if unconvincingly- of how that eloquent and articulate young prince among criminals Timothy McVeigh was at most only an accessory to Oklahoma City, if that (he knew this you see because he’d written to him and visited him) it was bad enough, but after 9-11 he was one of the foremost Kool Aid swillers.

Great line: Well, the Constitution has not yet been pregnant.

I think he was the greatest American writer since Mark Twain.


They’re both dead now, and William F. Buckley never got the chance to punch him in the face.

Rarely do I disagree with Sampiro on the subject of writers. And I suppose the creation of characters thing is correct, but I love Vidal’s writing. Not as much as I love Sampiro’s writing, but certainly more than Capote’s. Shit, Capote’s typist was a better writer than he was.

Couldn’t resist that last crack. Capote was a very good writer. I just enjoy Lee and her one book, TKAMB more than anything Capote ever wrote.

I can’t think of him without hearing Lily Tomlin’s voice “Mister Veedle”.

Moved thread from MPSIMS to Cafe and merged. Slow traffic keep to the right.

Yeah, well, he beat him to death, at least.

I remember watching him on talk shows (I was young and not college-educated, but I found him thrilling) and notably with Norman Mailer on Dick Cavett. Who offered to bring in more chairs “for Mailer’s giant intellect”. The feud between NM and GV eventually petered out and they reached the point (says Dick Cavett in a 2007 column) where they would pass on the street "like two old whores…‘still at it, Norm?’ ‘yep, still at it, Gore’.) …Oh, and my dad was a theater manager decades ago and our whole family often went to the theater he was currently in charge of to watch new movies, free. One of them being ‘Myra Breckenridge’, LOL! WTH was THAT? my mother kept saying all the way home, Seriously, WTF? (I got her the book and she declared after giving it a try that that was when her hair seriously went gray).

You win.


Sigh. You young’uns weren’t there for the birth of modern political discourse. The Buckley references made below were made on live tv during the jolly 1968 [del]police riot[/del] Democratic Convention. A good discussion can be found here. The actual exchange is not what people usually remember.

Now that’s how they done it in the Good Old Days. Everything was better then.

Vidal moved throughout his life in circles of the rich, famous, and powerful than most of us will never encounter and he hated them with the implacable fury of someone who wanted to join but knew that he would always be subtly excluded. He also had the contempt bred by intellectual superiority for fools, who are all-too-easy to find around you if that’s all you look for. Both goaded him to sharpen his tongue to a stabbing instrument.

His best fiction were similar knives. Burr, the first of his series on American history, is by far the best because he places his skunk hero on top of a pedestal from which to piss down on the sainted founding fathers. He needed a villain to deify and his fiction lacked dimension when deprived of it. He used himself as the villain in his nonfiction so at its best his venom sparkles and effervesces and far more of the essays achieve his goals.

After he exiled himself to Italy - for good reason, to be sure, from a society that treated gay atheists then like polygamist Muslims today - his hatred of America grew to an obsession that blocked his perception like a clot impeding blood to his brain. He diminished himself by it and aging and physical loss added pathos to his self-annihilation.

For the many decades in between, he was the apotheosis of intellectual gadflies: witty, cutting, perceptive, adventuresome, invulnerable. We have nothing like him now, because the culture that made him no longer exists to make another. In the greater scheme of things that’s wonderful progress. The loss is small but echoing.

A talented writer, but a miserable human being. I remember his verbal battles with the late W.F. Buckley.

Curmudgeons sometimes enjoy being curmudgeons.

Girls, Smapti. Boys kiss girls.