Wednesday, August 01, 2012

GORE VIDAL, 1925-2012. I'm busy all day, alas (why do they make me work? Can't they see I'm a national treasure?) but I wanted to quickly note the passing of Gore Vidal before my elegiac tone is marred by exposure to rightwing grave-pissers (well, to more of them, anyway). For me the big thing about Vidal was his ability to write popular fiction (he was madly popular for years, despite constant, bipartisan efforts to marginalize him) in the late 20th Century that came up to the standards of literature without straining for them in the sententious way of many best-seller list-climbers. He clearly wanted fame and attention, and knew he was entitled to them, but he wouldn't toady the muses to get them, nor anyone else.

He wrote with the easy grace and supreme confidence of an aristocrat -- which he sort of was, too, being kin to political royalty. There have of course been many aristos who wrote very well; Vidal had some of their qualities, and you could see them in his work. (Such as the aristocrat's sense of inviolability, which mirrors the imperviousness an artist must develop if he is to survive.) And it was fortified by his less ermined experiences, too, such as serving his country in the Army during World War II (which is more than many of the idiots who liked to call him a traitor could manage) and as a politician, and hacking for Hollywood, which I must say he handled like a champ -- no Barton Fink whining for him; he got some great stories out of it.

I hope to have more later. Meantime, read Burr or Palimpsest or Dark Green, Bright Red or anything by him, and make sure you have a copy around of United States, his collected essays, to remind you of what American writing can be when nothing is holding it back.

UPDATE. Changed "Navy" to "Army" -- thanks, commenter robo, for reminding me that Vidal served on an Army supply ship. I offer my apologies, and also these old alicublog links: A passage from The Best Man of which Peggy Noonan reminded me;  a review of his 2000 novel Washington, D.C.; and a parody of his later novel, The Golden Age, done with love.

UPDATE 2. In comments, Roger Ailes: "Gore Vidal made Michele Bachmann a Republican, but Marcus Bachmann made her a woman!"

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