The death of Gore Vidal is a sad blow for all whom like bitchy put-downs. My own personal favorite is his reaction to being physically attacked by Norman Mailer at a cocktail party over a bad review. As he picked himself up off the floor he uttered the timeless words “Once again words fail Norman Mailer’
Beautiful, and considering Mailer’s violent tendencies, quite brave. Much has been made of his feud with Mailer but when the author died a few years ago he was very effusive in his praise, showing he could be as generous as he could be catty.
I confess to not having read many of the things that made Vidal famous like his historical novels Lincoln, Burr and Empire but I did read ‘United States: Essays 1952-1992’ which were, as you’d expect, highly opinionated and highly entertaining.
It made me keen to find out more about the man and his times so I sent out to trawl the interweb looking for Vidal related material. I found some good footage of him on TV shows in America back in the day which make we wish he was around now to take on some of the sillier right wing commentators.
Check out his exchange with Mailer on the Dick Cavett Show and note how very quickly Mailer turns the whole room against him.
Not content with angering literary rivals he also riled right wingers. Here’s a clip that shows him angering William H Buckley during the Republican convention in Miami in 1968.
On a side note it’s interesting to see just how vehement and intractable people were back in the Sixties. We keep on being told that this phenomenon is a modern one and in the past people politics was more collaborative and less combative but from what I read of Nixon and his foes it was anything but.
People of differing views have always butted heads and screamed abuse at each other. All we can hope is some of the people handing out that abuse are as erudite and witty as Gore Vidal.