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Gore Vidal was better as a...

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Author Topic: Gore Vidal  (Read 1235 times)

Gore Vidal
« on: December 16, 2018, 12:45:55 PM »
Been working my way through a collection of his essays, and yeah, he's pretty fucking good isn't he? Always interesting even when he's a bit loopy. I read Myra Breckinridge and it's a dizzyingly ambitious thing, seemingly trying to fuse all of the then fashionable literary disciplines together in one big pot of provocation. I've heard that his fiction work is marred by his apparent struggle to write in any other voice except his own, but y'know, what a voice. So does anyone else read Vidal? Do you have a particular essay that stands out for you? And do you miss the kind of literary public intellectual that Vidal and Mailer embodied or were they never much value anyway?
« Last Edit: December 16, 2018, 01:00:45 PM by Monsieur Verdoux »

Re: Gore Vidal
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2018, 07:17:15 PM »
Well this failed miserably

Howj Begg

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Re: Gore Vidal
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2018, 07:26:30 PM »
So I have little to add at this point, but I am going to read Julian very soon, as I read about him in Gibbon's Decline and Fall, and I hear the Vidal book is good.

Again, sorry.

Re: Gore Vidal
« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2018, 07:53:47 PM »
I read Julian and thought it was excellent.  I was predisposed to think well of it because I was actually named after the book (my full name is Julian Keebleman).  Dad bought it in hardback when it was published and Mum, a keen Famous Five fan in her girlhood, thought it would be a good name for her first-born.

I assume she never read it though, or knew anything about Emperor Julian, as she has always been a practicing Catholic.

Haven't read any of his other novels, although I have put Burr on my Christmas list as it was recommended recently by Ezra Klein, and because I hope to turn it into a Broadway musical.

Bennett Brauer

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Re: Gore Vidal
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2018, 03:42:07 PM »
Have long thought I should get around to reading his work because he sounds like a witty bastard - his putdown after Mailer punches him in an argument is superb, if true.

What's the collection you're reading MV? The Essential...?

Mildly amusing, and totally unfair, to compare his charming insouciance on Clive Anderson's show with his pissed prickliness against Dimbleby D.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQLIFI_V3aY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tD0p-wfCARk

Re: Gore Vidal
« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2018, 04:37:07 PM »
What's the collection you're reading MV? The Essential...?

United States: Essays 1952-1992. I've also got one called The Last Empire which collects his best 1992-2001 essays, including his one on Blair (Gore wasn't a fan).

I have put Burr on my Christmas list as it was recommended recently by Ezra Klein

I have Burr and was considering reading it, but if Ezra Klein recommends it then I might have to give it a miss!

Re: Gore Vidal
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2018, 04:43:06 PM »
There's a great podcast called 'Vidalotry' which is a sort of best of his many witty media appearances. It's really well done and very listenable. Would recommend to anyone who wants an introduction to him

Bennett Brauer

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Re: Gore Vidal
« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2018, 08:21:27 PM »
Cheers, bookmarked. I guess Saturday Matters with Sue Lawley in Episode 9 is the show he was complaining about in the Clive Anderson interview.

Re: Gore Vidal
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2018, 10:43:31 PM »
Yeah it's a bit bloody tense, iirc

Re: Gore Vidal
« Reply #9 on: December 25, 2018, 10:24:18 PM »


Haven't read any of his other novels, although I have put Burr on my Christmas list as it was recommended recently by Ezra Klein, and because I hope to turn it into a Broadway musical.

Santa brought me Burr!  The edition has the subtitle, "The Man Who Shot Hamilton".  I'm pretty sure that wasn't included until very recently.

Maurice Yeatman

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Re: Gore Vidal
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2018, 02:02:37 AM »
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tD0p-wfCARk

Why is no one in the comments drawing attention to the majestic stream of snot Vidal produces at 3:13?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tD0p-wfCARk#t=191

Is that a side effect of cocaine? It might explain why he is so inexplicably aggressive with his replies.

McFlymo

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Re: Gore Vidal
« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2019, 04:06:27 AM »
I think this will spare me on to finally read the, "A View from the Diners Club" collection, I bought about 2 years ago!

Re: Gore Vidal
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2019, 12:56:16 PM »
Why is no one in the comments drawing attention to the majestic stream of snot Vidal produces at 3:13?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tD0p-wfCARk#t=191

Is that a side effect of cocaine? It might explain why he is so inexplicably aggressive with his replies.

I haven't heard anything about Gore using coke in his later years, although the Jay Parini biography basically reports that Gore was a perennially depressed and difficult alcoholic from the point of his partner's death in 2003. The start of the Iraq war was the last surge of new activity from Gore as well, after that he mainly rewrote or recycled old stuff. He kind of lost it, which is sad in a way, but he was brilliant for far longer than most people.

Re: Gore Vidal
« Reply #13 on: May 20, 2019, 10:30:54 AM »
Well, finally got around to reading Burr, and for all Vidal's skill and wit I found it a bit of a slog.  For a full appreciation, you really need to be pretty well up on that period of American history, then you can judge just how fair or unfair, for example, is Burr's depiction of Jefferson as a pompous, treacherous, hypocritical would-be tyrant, and whether or not Burr is being disingenuous in his defence of the allegations of treason that were made against him (Burr).  Though Burr's cold-bloodedness with regards to Hamilton is memorably chilling.

But there is a lot to admire in the book, and it even has a bizarre twist at the very end.

Re: Gore Vidal
« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2019, 04:42:19 PM »
His essay 'Homage to Daniel Shays' further outlines Vidal's view on the period, I tried to find it online but I could only find the first section

Quote
To govern is to choose how the revenue raised from taxes is spent. So far so good, or bad. But some people earn more money than others. Should they pay proportionately more money to the government than those who earn less? And if they do pay more money are they entitled to more services than those who pay less or those who pay nothing at all? And should those who pay nothing at all because they have nothing get anything? These matters are of irritable concern to our rulers, and of some poignancy to the rest.

Although the equality of each citizen before the law is the rock upon which the American Constitution rests, economic equality has never been an American ideal. In fact, it is the one unmentionable subject in our politics, as the senator from South Dakota recently discovered when he came up with a few quasi-egalitarian tax reforms. The furious and enduring terror of Communism in America is not entirely the work of those early cold warriors Truman and Acheson. A dislike of economic equality is something deep-grained in the American Protestant character. After all, given a rich empty continent for vigorous Europeans to exploit (the Indians were simply a disagreeable part of the emptiness, like chiggers), any man of gumption could make himself a good living. With extra hard work, any man could make himself a fortune, proving that he was a better man than the rest. Long before Darwin the American ethos was Darwinian.

The vision of the rich empty continent is still a part of the American unconscious in spite of the Great Crowding and its attendant miseries; and this lingering belief in the heaven any man can make for himself through hard work and clean living is a key to the majority’s prevailing and apparently unalterable hatred of the poor, kept out of sight at home, out of mind abroad.

Yet there has been, from the beginning, a significant division in our ruling class. The early Thomas Jefferson had a dream: a society of honest yeomen, engaged in agricultural pursuits, without large cities, heavy industry, banks, military pretensions. The early (and the late) Alexander Hamilton wanted industry, banks, cities, and a military force capable of making itself felt in world politics. It is a nice irony that so many of today’s laissez-faire conservatives think that they descend from Hamilton, the proponent of a strong federal government, and that so many liberals believe themselves to be the heirs of the early Jefferson, who wanted little more than a police force and a judiciary. Always practical, Jefferson knew that certain men would rise through their own good efforts while, sadly, others would fall. Government would do no more than observe this Darwinian spectacle benignly, and provide no succor.

In 1800 the Hamiltonian view was rejected by the people and their new President Thomas Jefferson. Four years later, the Hamiltonian view had prevailed and was endorsed by the reelected Jefferson. Between 1800 and 1805 Jefferson had seen to it that an empire in posse had become an empire in esse. The difference between Jefferson I and Jefferson II is reflected in the two inaugural addresses. It is significant that nothing more elevated than greed changed the Dr. Jekyll of Jefferson I into the Mr. Hyde of Jefferson II. Like his less thoughtful countrymen, Jefferson could not resist a deal. Subverting the Constitution he had helped create, Jefferson bought Louisiana from Napoleon, acquiring its citizens without their consents. The author of the Declaration of Independence was quite able to forget the unalienable rights of anyone whose property he thought should be joined to our empire—a word which crops up frequently and unselfconsciously in his correspondence. In the course of land-grabbing, Jefferson II managed to get himself into hot water with France,
England, and Spain simultaneously, a fairly astonishing thing to do considering the state of politics in Napoleonic Europe.

the science eel

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Re: Gore Vidal
« Reply #15 on: May 20, 2019, 08:50:26 PM »
Just watch the doc with him and Buckley.

And read Palimpsest