Gore Vidal, 1925-2012

Gore Vidal, a class traitor of the best kind, died yesterday.

Born into a well-connected and politically influential family that could have opened doors to a patrician life, he became instead a populist outsider and a scathing critic of the politics of the US. He had wide-ranging interests, writing novels, essays, and screenplays and also acting in films, such as Gattacca where he was pretty good.

Because he had such a quick wit and never shied away from speaking his mind or picking a fight with those whom he despised, he was a much sought-after interviewee other than in the mainstream media in the US where sacred cows are carefully protected. It was always fun to read his essays or watch him being interviewed. Here he is in an interview in 2007 with The Real News Network (a wonderful alternative news source for those not aware of it) talking about politics and the media. The bit that struck me was when he said, “I’ve been around the ruling class all my life and I’ve been quite aware of their total contempt for the people of the country”, something that is becoming increasingly obvious.

Here are three examples about politics from a list of 26 quotes of his that give you a pretty good idea of his views:

“We should stop going around babbling about how we’re the greatest democracy on earth, when we’re not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarised republic.”

“Every four years the naive half who vote are encouraged to believe that if we can elect a really nice man or woman President everything will be all right. But it won’t be.”

“Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.”

Here are some of his quotes about religion, my favorites being “The idea of a good society is something you do not need a religion and eternal punishment to buttress; you need a religion if you are terrified of death” and “I’m a born-again atheist.”

The Guardian has a good obituary.


  1. macrophallus says

    Just for the record: The girl that Polanski raped (Samantha Geimer) grew up to be a well adjusted adult and married mother of three who publicly stated that all charges against the perp should be dropped. She’s also on record saying that she was not adversely affected by the experience and ‘got over it long ago’. Free Roman Polanski

  2. 'Tis Himself says

    I tried reading Myra Breckenridge. It’s one of two books I have thrown against the wall.* Vidal was a decent essayist. I read one third of one of his novels and never bothered to read any more of his fiction.

    *The other was Harlan Ellison’s A Boy and His Dog. Ellison is a much better fiction writer than Vidal and equally despicable as a human being.

  3. slc1 says

    Re macrophallus @ #3

    What does this have to do with the vile opinion that Mr. Vidal wrote about her. Just for the record, I will repeat it below.

    I really don’t give a fuck. Look, am I going to sit and weep every time a young hooker feels as though she’s been taken advantage of?

  4. says

    @macrophallus – that has nothing whatsoever to do with Gore Vidal’s deplorable and disgusting statement. (Also, a victim’s forgiveness does equal exoneration. Rape is immoral and wrong even if the victim reaches a point where xe can forgive xir attacker)

  5. Brian Faux says

    Vidal was no saint but surely the world will be greatly diminished by his passing. RIP.

  6. Corvus illustris says

    Anachronistic though it may be, your thoughts and mine about “Myra Breckenridge” must first have been thought by Dorothy Parker: “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” But to call Vidal merely a “decent” essayist is something of an injustice. The corpus of his writings in that form is huge, and the quality of the work is high on average, rarely low, and first-rate in many cases.

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