Vidal-isms

(1) “We’re the most captive nation of slaves that ever came along…the moral timidity of the average American is quite noticeable“; (2) “Everything’s wrong on Wikipedia”; (3) “I’ve developed a total loathing for [John] McCain, conceited little asshole. And he thinks he’s wonderful. I mean, you can just tell, this little simper of self-love that he does all the time. You just want to kick him”; (4) “You hear all this whining going on, ‘Where are our great writers?’ The thing I might feel doleful about is: Where are the readers?” — from Vidal’s “What I’ve Learned” page in th new Esquire.

37 thoughts on “Vidal-isms

  1. Oh stop it, Vidal, REALLY. You are such the impish cad. I’d be drawn to the notion of scratching your eyes out if your weren’t such a beguiling inveigler of delightfully obstreperous postulations.
    I concur with your thoughts on McCain. It was in rather poor form and, more to the point, downright uncouth of him to be captured by the glorious North Vietnamese Peoples Army.
    Oh dear. I’m getting valetudinarious just pondering the notion. Once again, I request my smelling salts!

  2. One doesn’t really know where to start. “Conceited little asshole”? Certainly Mr. Vidal knows of which he speaks, if anyone does. Remind me again what Gore Vidal has done for America? I know he was in WWII, but after that he has put his ass on the line exactly how? Oh, yeah, with lots of typing. Gosh, that carpal tunnel…it’s a killer.

  3. I interviewed Gore back in 82 when he was running against Jerry Brown for the Senate here in California. The transcript of that interview has never been published but I re-read it and quote from it to friends all the time, which is a pretty masochistic exercise. Gore was explaining how we need to return to being a trading state, not a permanent war state, which started around the time of Truman. He talked about the need for rapid transit, light rail, to get off oil dependence and the impending water crisis, how we neede to start investing in desalinization technology. In other words, had we followed his advice 26 years ago, we wouldn’t be as fucked up as we are today. Instead we had the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush administration. Another reason I so appreciate Jeff’s early and consistent enthusiasm for Obama. Maybe we have another chance to elect someone of intelligence and reason. And not those two candidates of the past corruption, McCain and Clinton.

  4. Walter: “It was in rather poor form and, more to the point, downright uncouth of him to be captured by the glorious North Vietnamese Peoples Army.”
    He seems to have no problems voting against financial assistance for vets who encounter similar traumatic situations…
    Griff: “Remind me again what Gore Vidal has done for America? I know he was in WWII, but after that he has put his ass on the line exactly how? Oh, yeah, with lots of typing.”
    Unlike the Pentagon and McClellan, promoting freedom of speech and public discourse is always doing something for America.
    Gaydos: “In other words, had we followed his advice 26 years ago, we wouldn’t be as fucked up as we are today.”
    Not just his advice, but Carter’s advice. *cough* solar power and electric cars *cough*

  5. This just in: Barack Obama thinks North By Northwest was shot on location:
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/foreign/tobyharnden/may08/obamabigears.htm
    Gaydos,
    the trap that Gore and all Libs fall into is that pushing for less Oil consumption means supporting higher gas prices: It’s Supply & Demand 101. But Liberals can’t go along because of their populist roots. As long as they continue to hold diametric opposing positions when it comes to Energy Policy, they’ll make no headway on the issue.

  6. “We’re the most captive nation of slaves that ever came along”–Gore Vidal
    “Fascism is always coming to America, but landing in Europe.” –Tom Wolfe
    He’s right about Wikipedia, though, and possibly about readers. Though let’s be serious, in the pantheon of literature, Vidal is a catty gay version of James Michener.

  7. SaveFarris: “the trap that Gore and all Libs fall into is that pushing for less Oil consumption means supporting higher gas prices: It’s Supply & Demand 101.”
    No, they support higher taxes on oil companies, which is fine by me. It’s Republicans who love higher gas prices, because then it gives them an excuse to destroy the environment.
    “But Liberals can’t go along because of their populist roots. As long as they continue to hold diametric opposing positions when it comes to Energy Policy, they’ll make no headway on the issue.”
    And yet it’s the Republicans who’ve stalled on acknowledging global warming is a scientific fact, and on giving us fuel-efficient(and electric) vehicles.

  8. I’ll tell you one thing as far as Mr. Vidal is concerned…this certainly is NO country for old men.
    …the man hasn’t been relevant in thirty years …he’s a pop-culture reference, someone who inspires (inspired, rather) people to think but not *do*….preaching the ideal instead of the conceptual…mankind is better served by ditch diggers than these generational lions of intellectualism who do nothing, not a god damn thing, to improve or advance the world around them

  9. Who’s making more profit from the sale of a gallon of gas: the oil companies or the federal government? PS: It’s not even close…
    I love how you chastise Republicans not falling for Global Warming Hysteria even as scientists are now predicting that the Earth is entering a decades-long cooling phase.
    And you think the government should “give us” cars? Seriously? Electric cars will become part of the mass culture just as soon as the next Henry Ford comes along that can create a product that most of the country actually WANTS to spend their money on. And when that next Henry Ford gets rich off his/her innovation, Gore Vidal will be there to demand that he/she should be taxed into oblivion. Government can’t (and shouldn’t) do it.

  10. Farris: “Who’s making more profit from the sale of a gallon of gas: the oil companies or the federal government?”
    The oil companies make billions, and we’re trillions in debt, so I think the answer is obvious.
    “I love how you chastise Republicans not falling for Global Warming Hysteria even as scientists are now predicting that the Earth is entering a decades-long cooling phase.”
    You mean the same scientists who supported the latest White House study which suggests that global warming is in fact on the rise? http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/30/washington/30climate.html?ref=us
    “Electric cars will become part of the mass culture just as soon as the next Henry Ford comes along that can create a product that most of the country actually WANTS to spend their money on.”
    Americans want to spend their money on those products, but the car companies want us to stay dependent on oil, so they can keep selling more product.
    “And when that next Henry Ford gets rich off his/her innovation, Gore Vidal will be there to demand that he/she should be taxed into oblivion. Government can’t (and shouldn’t) do it.”
    Yes, people who make money earn their wealth. Just ask Ken Lay.

  11. D.Z., you make a lot of good points tonight.
    Supertaster; ever heard of the saying ‘those who forget history are doomed to repeat it’? You can denigrate an old, “not-relevant” guy like Vidal and follow the “fresh thinking” neo-cons who got us into this Iraq clusterfuck. The same people called Warren Buffet and old relic when he predicted the bust of the dot-com era.
    And I wish GWB were digging ditches than POTUS

  12. “We’re the most captive nation of slaves that ever came along”–Gore Vidal

    “Fascism is always coming to America, but landing in Europe.” –Tom Wolfe

    He’s right about Wikipedia, though, and possibly about readers. Though let’s be serious, in the pantheon of literature, Vidal is a catty gay version of James Michener.

  13. what the? neo-cons? iraq? because i dismiss a tired blowhard suddenly i’m a neo-con war monger with no perspective of history? paranoid much viper??
    …age has nothing to do with it…buffet is still relevant because his ideas about investing are actually practical, not rhetorical and idealistic…he teaches and thus enables people to better themselves and future generations, unlike vidal, whose social commentary is short-lived and unfruitful, providing nothing more than talking points that last a day or a week, if even a generation…

  14. “I know he was in WWII, but after that he has put his ass on the line exactly how? ”
    Gore Vidal is one of the finest and brightest men in this country’s proud line of arts and letters, just as William F. Buckley was. If you were remotely interested in anything learned, you would know that.
    Oh and WWII was a pretty big thing.

  15. In his political commentary, Vidal has often been astute, witty and funny. His essays are first-rate. I will miss him when he’s gone. But WHAT HAS HE DONE FOR AMERICA?, asks the litle man as he types his ferocious post to a movie blog.

  16. Lessons are to be learned from the nasty ramblings of the guy Buddy Hackette referred to once on “The Tonight Show” as ‘Gory Viddle?’ I honestly think not. The man is a unique blend of self-loathing (because he’s never written a really good, for the ages novel?) and rote anti-Americanism. He’s probably still annoyed no one took him seriously enough in upstate NY to elect him to Congress long ago. (Though why anyone would vote for such a complete snob with so low a view of his fellow Americans would surely never occur to him, so complete is Vidal’s self-absorption.)

  17. Despite my crack earlier, I’d certainly recommend Lincoln, Creation and Myra Breckinridge. Great, for the ages? I doubt it. Highly entertaining and, at least in the latter case, culturally significant? Sure.

  18. I’ll bite: 8 years US Coast Guard, the last three of them as an EMT and Rescue Swimmer, jumping out of helicopters into the Pacific Ocean and other bodies of water to aid people. Saved some, merely recovered the bodies of others.

    My point re: Vidal is simple. Complaining is different from Changing. Complaining is pointing out the emperor has no clothes, but doing it from the sidelines where you aren’t going to get much more than flamed at the finer parties or blog sites. Changing involves putting yourself in the trenches, getting dirty, sweaty, and disappointed, but very personally involved.

  19. Mgmax: “And now it’s working, even in the liberal media!”
    Too bad the media’s no longer liberal, and the surge is working so well that McCain thinks we’ll still be here in five years if he wins.
    lion: “Though why anyone would vote for such a complete snob with so low a view of his fellow Americans”
    They should vote people who screw vets out of benefits.
    Griff: “Changing involves putting yourself in the trenches, getting dirty, sweaty, and disappointed, but very personally involved.”
    So when are you going to enlist for Iraq?

  20. If Vidal wasn’t “involved” we wouldn’t be talking about him right now. Read some of his stuff. You might even enjoy it.

  21. I think both sides of this are right. All a writer has to do to be involved is to write; if he does it well, needless to say, his involvement is worth regiments.
    That said, Vidal has become sort of the clown prince of a style of ultracynical despairism about America that very much suits the sort of undergraduate mentality that wants to believe it all went to shit five minutes before he had a chance to make a difference, so now he’s absolved of trying. God knows we see plenty of that here, people who are so sure America’s economy is ruined and fascism is rampant and so on. To that extent, he’s a pernicious old fart and not nearly so smart as he thinks he is.
    But… I still recommend Lincoln, Creation and Myra Breckinridge!

  22. Despite my crack earlier, I’d certainly recommend Lincoln, Creation and Myra Breckinridge. Great, for the ages? I doubt it. Highly entertaining and, at least in the latter case, culturally significant? Sure.

  23. He was born at West Point. That must count for some patriotic brownie points doesn’t it?
    Lots of great stuff in “United States” “Palimpsest.”
    Stuff from New York Review of Books:
    This review of the collected works of Isabel Bolton is hilarious:
    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/984
    Remembering Orson Welles:
    Orson was now in full flow. “They also have the gift of the unexpected letdown. The ultimate Zinger. ‘There are only three great directors in the history of the film,’ they will announce. I smile shyly.” Orson smiles. Cotton was right. Though he doesn’t seem to be sucking in his cheeks, the corners of his mouth are drawn not up but down. “There is D.W. Griffith. I roll my eyes toward Heaven in an ecstasy of agreement. There is Orson Welles. I lower my lids, all modesty√ɬ¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Ǩ¬ùlittle me? Then,” his voice drops, basso profundissimo, “there is√ɬ¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Ǩ¬ùNicholas Ray!” Orson erupts in laughter. We meditate on the interview as art form as well as necessity for Orson, “because I don’t lecture any more.”
    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/4016

  24. I think both sides of this are right. All a writer has to do to be involved is to write; if he does it well, needless to say, his involvement is worth regiments.

    That said, Vidal has become sort of the clown prince of a style of ultracynical despairism about America that very much suits the sort of undergraduate mentality that wants to believe it all went to shit five minutes before he had a chance to make a difference, so now he’s absolved of trying. God knows we see plenty of that here, people who are so sure America’s economy is ruined and fascism is rampant and so on. To that extent, he’s a pernicious old fart and not nearly so smart as he thinks he is.

    But… I still recommend Lincoln, Creation and Myra Breckinridge!

  25. Glad to see Mgmax is taking a halfway balanced view of Vidal’s work. Vidal’s Lincoln is excellent — Lincoln was a politician, after all, and Vidal treats his accomplishments as those of a smart first-rate politician, not a plaster saint. His portraits of the people surrounding Lincoln, especially Secretary of State Seward, are both hilarious and chilling.
    Vidal’s Burr is also highly recommended. Vidal is a professional contrarian — like Edward Abbey, he questions whether American involvement in WWII was a good idea — but you’re denying yourself some reading pleasure if you pass up reading Lincoln and Burr.

  26. “Vidal is a professional contrarian”– yes, exactly. Which means, you should be provoked to thought by his no-sacred-cows freethinking, not take his contrarian– and occasionally appalling– views word for word.
    Actually, I recommended Lincoln here a long time ago (not sure why I was posting under my full name then, not that it’s ever been a secret– hint, it’s where the MG comes from):
    http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com/2006/07/spielbergs_linc.php
    And I think Myra Breckinridge is a major 20th century novel, capturing the camp sensibility and sexual polymorphism of that era in print for all time in a way that other works of that time and sensibility (eg, Andy Warhol’s films) are too sloppy to do with the rigor of lasting art. So I dunno, despite what I said earlier, maybe Myra is a great, lasting novel. Check back here in 100 years to know for sure.
    The one thing I would say is, don’t read Palimpsest until you’ve read Myra. It’ll sort of spoil a lot of Myra’s point of view and plot development if you get it straight (so to speak) from Vidal in memoir form. Better to read the novel, then read the story of how the man who wrote it came to think that way.

  27. “Vidal is a professional contrarian”– yes, exactly. Which means, you should be provoked to thought by his no-sacred-cows freethinking, not take his contrarian– and occasionally appalling– views word for word.

    Actually, I recommended Lincoln here a long time ago (not sure why I was posting under my full name then, not that it’s ever been a secret– hint, it’s where the MG comes from):

    http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com/2006/07/spielbergs_linc.php

    And I think Myra Breckinridge is a major 20th century novel, capturing the camp sensibility and sexual polymorphism of that era in print for all time in a way that other works of that time and sensibility (eg, Andy Warhol’s films) are too sloppy to do with the rigor of lasting art. So I dunno, despite what I said earlier, maybe Myra is a great, lasting novel. Check back here in 100 years to know for sure.

    The one thing I would say is, don’t read Palimpsest until you’ve read Myra. It’ll sort of spoil a lot of Myra’s point of view and plot development if you get it straight (so to speak) from Vidal in memoir form. Better to read the novel, then read the story of how the man who wrote it came to think that way.

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