Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Gore Vidal, 1925 - 2012

I've read only three novels by Gore Vidal: Burr, Lincoln, Myra Breckenridge,  though I've long  intended  to read the other novels in his "Empire" series. But I've never passed up a Vidal essay or op-ed, or  a TV interview if I could watch it.

Never a doubt in my mind Gore Vidal & I would not have related well to each other. (Well, he would've liked me at age 20 with my cute butt.) I'm an intellectual weenie, product of modest public education, not a trace of American aristocracy in my family.   My "extreme" political views were hardly extreme when I first settled on them. There is the first common ground I find with Gore. He admired Franklin D. Roosevelt &, speaking as an aristocrat himself, he considered the great traitors in America to be aristocrats who do not betray their class.  For Gore, George W. Bush & Mitt Romney must have represented  the final death of American noblesse oblige.

Gore Vidal was a curmudgeon.   Back-biting, name-dropping, verbal bitch slapping, Gore, Norman, Truman & William F, four names always linked together.

Gore was  profoundly conservative in ways that are difficult for us to understand now, with our absurd right wing that believes  we can't obtain  good government without persecuting homosexuals,  rolling back rights for women, denying the scientific method,  repudiating the British Enlightenment, & allowing our financial institutions to be run more loosely than a Macau casino. As an American  "aristocrat" - he never tired of reminding us, he believed,  with some justification, he was fully, personally  vested in the sweep of American history, its most important events & people.  For Gore, this was an entitlement. It was his "license" to speak out. He spoke to power past & present.

An ideal America had never existed for Gore, only idiots believe that fallacy,  but the ideals existed. Against these ideals was the impossibility of realizing them in all their glorious idealism.

He was an elegant, patriotic man, & a wonderful writer & speaker.  I shall miss him.


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