Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Gore Vidal

So, he is not immortal (as he thought) and has died and gone to h….
by Charlie Leck

I shall not write a long essay about Gore Vidal. If you want such a thing, you can find lengthy and well-written obituaries about him today in the New York Times and the Washington Post – and, I suppose, in the other two or three leading papers in the country also.

He was a queer duck, but he was a brilliant man and an extraordinarily good writer. I’ve read a few of his works, each of which seems to be lengthy, yet terribly good. Two of his novels – Lincoln, for one, and Burr, for the other – rank among the best books I’ve ever read.

I keep a copy of Vidal’s most essential book, United States, here on my desktop. When I need to read something good, I often turn to it and read or reread an essay. It’s wonderful stuff – a compilation of essays he wrote between 1952 and 1992.

There is one thing I should add about Vidal that has some contemporary relevance as we think today about the question of same-sex marriage. I first got involved in trying to understand homosexuality on an intellectual basis – rather than an emotional one – in the late 60s. With guidance from a fellow named Jim Clayton, I began, back then, to release my fears of the subject and to understand it more viscerally, compassionately, scientifically and historically. With Vidal, I came to believe that none of us is strictly heterosexual or strictly homosexual. There is something – even if only a small bit – of both in each of us. When we are relieved of our fears about the subject, we can admit that to ourselves and be more understanding and accepting of each other’s sexual preferences.

Gore Vidal is dead at the age of 86. His writings will hang around for centuries and stimulate and confound people to no end.

“There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise!” [Gore Vidal]

“Vidal collected the best of his discursive prose in United States (1993), a mammoth volume of literary essays, political polemics and autobiographical reminiscences for which he received the National Book Award. It included a scandalously frank account of the Kennedys entitled ‘The Holy Family’ and a series of irreverent takes on U.S. presidents, including John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.” [Michael Dirda]

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