Gore Vidal, 1925-2012

I prefer Mr Vidal’s fiction and essays (most of them) to Mr Buckley’s (particularly his later, more orotund style). Politically, of course, it is the opposite. I don’t trust artists’ political opinions: they don’t really study these things.

Creation is a good novel, once one gets past the few Vidal-isms therein. (Martin Amis noted that one must write “disinterestedly” to make good art, which is why self-inserting authors, or their opinions, go down so poorly so often, and why Vidal’s political novels and later work suffer.) You may be offended by Myra Breckinridge; certainly, if homosexuality squicks you, I don’t recommend you read it, any more than I would advise someone who faints at the sight of blood to watch a Hammer Studios Dracula film. Christopher Isherwood, Vidal’s close friend, wrote to Vidal that he thought MB was a kind of self-portrait: when I compare Myra Breckinridge with the sequel, Myron, I can see the change in Vidal’s outlook: Myron is an angry, negative polemic.

Kalki was a great, downer-ending science-fiction story: the only proper SF Vidal ever wrote. Messiah was also very good, as were The Judgment of Paris, Julian and 1876, especially since there were fewer real figures in the last (historical) novel, so less temptation. (Vidal’s crush on James A. Garfield is rather amusing.)

Palimpsest was a good memoir, though it cribbed much of his own previous writing on himself and his acquaintances, but it cribbed well.

For the essays: basically, anything Vidal wrote on Art is worth reading. His prose could achieve a kind of water-clear transparency at those times, something he never, ever could do with politics.

p.s. One normally calls this clarity “limpid” or “pellucid,” sadly, those words are so abused I leave them out here.

p.p.s. Hillsdale College has Buckley's papers, including his excellent
On Experiencing Gore Vidal”. Sadly, no direct URL exists: type “gore vidal” in the search bar and click to page two.

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