A part of me thinks that a name like Gore Vidal belongs in the company of Perez Prado and Carmen Miranda. I know how that sounds, but honestly – to me, the name is power embodied. As many know, and as Chris Bram most notably stated, “Gore Vidal was famous for his hates: academia, presidents, whole portions of the American public and, most notably, Truman Capote. Yet he could be incredibly generous to other writer friends… He was a man of many facets and endless contradictions.” Let’s look at some quick facts about this notorious American figure on what would have been his 93rd birthday.
1. His first novel was published in 1948 when he was a mere 22 years old (show of hands for which of us feel like we have accomplished nothing with our lives?), and won him instant notoriety. The City and the Pillar broke so many boundaries people didn’t know where to start… it depicted a male homosexual relationship at a time when homosexuality was still illegal throughout the United States.
2. Along these lines, Vidal believed that homosexuality and heterosexuality were adjectives, not nouns. Therefore someone could not BE a homosexual, they could simply perform homosexual acts. He believed that human sexuality existed on a sliding scale, and everyone was at least a little bisexual – even if it only meant that you could appreciate the beauty of a member of your own sex! He is now considered the godfather of gay literature, though he did not wish to be simply known as a gay author when he was writing, as he had views on all aspects of life that he wished to share.
3. Getting off the subject of sex, Vidal was also a master of upheaval in politics, and published many essays that would offend the conservative side of America. His historical novel Julian, published in 1964, relived the time of the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate and how he used the idea of religious tolerance in Christian times to reinstate polytheistic paganism.
4. We think this quote by Vidal needs no explanation (but everyone please remember that this is Vidal’s quote – not necessarily ours): “There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt – until recently … and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.” Ouch!
5. He fought with… everyone. Most famously, though, as mentioned above in the quote by Bram, he fought with Truman Capote and William F. Buckley Jr.. With Capote, they fought over Capote supposedly spreading slander about drunk and disorderly behavior by Vidal in the White House. Untrue, Vidal took grave offense to these rumors and both traded hateful barbs. The Buckley feud a bit more intense, with actual lawsuits coming forth for libel and cruelty, Vidal said in 2008 after Buckley passed away, “I thought hell is bound to be a livelier place, as he joins, forever, those whom he served in life, applauding their prejudices and fanning their hatred.”
Jeesh! Now here’s the thing… Vidal did a lot of things for the wrong reasons, and a lot of things… because he had thoughts and feelings and wanted to express them. However, hate him (which someone like him would probably appreciate, not going to lie) or love him – you have to admit… he was a pretty worthy opponent.