He Was Gore Vidal, Whom No Man Would Ever Possess

Reading & Writing

His work could be frustratingly opaque, long-winded or confusing, but by God he was never boring. Gore Vidal was aristocratic, arrogant and cold-blooded, but craved attention. His long-time adversary Norman Mailer hit him on the head with a glass before a talk show, William F Buckley Junior threatened to punch him in the face after Vidal accused him of being a ‘crypto-Nazi’ on TV, and his feud with Truman Capote became the stuff of legend.

He was ostracized for a decade after writing ‘The City and the Pillar’ and scandalised America with his sexual satires ‘Myra Breckinridge’ and ‘Myron’. Deciding the film version was ripe for reappraisal I was surprised to find it still controversial, and a veritable encyclopaedia of seventies style.

For me, Vidal’s incisive essays constitute his best work, although I haven’t read his novels about US presidents. As a raconteur he was unreliable and hilarious, especially when discussing the insertion of a gay subtext in the story of the Christ, in his screenplay for ‘Ben-Hur’.

The chances of him ever being elected as a liberal atheist gay politician may have been swiftly dashed, but for many of us fascinated US-watchers he was the contrapuntal voice of the times, and the world is a less interesting place without him. Pictured, Raquel Welch as the ‘unpossessable’ Myra Breckinridge, posed as she appears in the novel as a rotating statue outside a hotel window, the symbol of New Woman.

13 comments on “He Was Gore Vidal, Whom No Man Would Ever Possess”

  1. Cid says:

    My hair has never felt so soft, thank you Mr Vidal.

  2. Dan Terrell says:

    Gore Vidal could be very witty and killing. His historical novels, however, seemed long and a bit Mitchner-ish to me. A Buckley-Vidal debate usually caused me to want to strangle them both.
    However, in my younger days, I would gladly have listened to Ms. Welsh reading selections from Gore Vidal’s work, particularly pool-side with a nice glass of wine. That combo would have been Bedazzling I’m sure and a compelling way to enjoy contemporary American lit.

  3. Lulu says:

    Gore Vidal loved nothing more than the sound of his own voice.

  4. Alan Morgan says:

    Ah, Raquel Welch. Sorry, you said something?

    I bet she’s a really, really good writer.

  5. Cat Eldridge says:

    The Asoociated Press obit had a howler of a odd claim in it as it claimed that Amelia Earhart was one of his lovers! Given she disappeared in 1937 when he was just over ten years old, this is highly unlikely…

  6. Sam Tomaino says:

    Never is his writing wittier than in THE BEST MAN, a play and a movie about an era of American political conventions that is no more.

  7. Helen Martin says:

    I read Myra Breckenridge when I was reading my way through the alphabet and found it fascinating and rather moving except for the 30 page rape scene (as I remember it). I really thought that was rather excessive. He really was a rebellious aristocrat, but he was a corrective to the self satisfaction that was rampant in the 70’s.

  8. Helen Martin says:

    Except for Viet Nam, of course.

  9. John says:

    I think the funniest thing Vidal wrote is that chapter in Myra Breckinridge when Myron wakes up and says “Tits! Where are my tits?” That’s the entire chapter. [Oops will this get posted with one of those taboo words? Oh well.]

  10. Dan Terrell says:

    Alan: She has written two books both very well reviewed by a great number of readers on Amazon.com! The lastest is perceptively titled: “Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage”. How much of either she wrote I have no idea. She is a successful business woman, so…
    And she first gained success in the film “One Million Years BC”, which was a Hammer production (with Admin creating the discussion topics Hammer was a natch.)

  11. BangBang!! says:

    Racquel Welch’s son married Fred Trueman’s daughter. Not a lot of people know that.

  12. snowy says:

    As we have now spiralled off onto Ms Welch, she did appear in a film with Bill Cosby and Harvey Keitel. Called Mother, Jugs and Speed, I’ll leave you to guess which part she played.

    “You drive my hours, you listen to my music, and you pay for your own beer.”

  13. agatha hamilton says:

    Never mind Gore Vidal liking the sound of his own voice, I liked the sound of his voice. That aren’t many such witty, clever and erudite people around. His oneliners – the remark while he was still flat on the floor having been downed by Norman Mailer – ‘I see words fail Norman Mailer yet again’. His reply to the question asked by an impertinent interviewer as to whether his first sexual experience had been homosexual or heterosexual -‘I didn’t think it was polite to ask.’ And then his knowledge of history, as good on Roman as on American. I think Julian is his best novel, showing he knew as much about the late Roman world as on the Republican. The American novels are a bit cumbersome, I agree with Admin that the essays are probably his best writings. Perhaps one can’t compliment a person on his choice of houses, but the one with the staggering view in Rapallo and the apartment in the Origo Palace in Rome do display great taste and style.
    Were his references to our security services as M fifteen and M sixteen a joke?

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