On Myra Breckinridge and the Life of Gore Vidal

(lithub.com)

45 points | by chat 105 days ago

4 comments

  • mturmon 105 days ago

    His essays from four decades of writing are collected in a massive book titled United States, which I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend - it is huge, but you can browse. He's delightfully readable, and he has known so many people - the Kennedys, Norman Mailer, Tennessee Williams, Italo Calvino, Al Gore, Christopher Hitchens, ....

    As Paglia says, what an original mind. Kind of determinedly outrageous and transgressive, but also smart, bold, and often correct. I still think about his notions that authoritarians always keep shit lists, monotheism inherently provokes religious conflict, and there is no clear classification of sexual preference for individuals. It it all true? He will convince you.

    • AndyMcConachie 104 days ago

      And also a rabid anti-imperialist and fond of comparing the United States to ancient Rome. One of the most outspoken aspects of his life was criticizing the United States whenever the gears of war began to turn, and not just the government, but the press, the people, and the culture.

      He had a complete falling out with Christopher Hitchens later in life over Bush's 2nd Iraq War. At one point he saw Hitchens as his intellectual equal, and someone who he believed would carry on fighting against American imperialism after Vidal's death. But once Hitchens started writing apologetics for Bush's 2nd Iraq War the two of them completely fell out.

      • PhasmaFelis 103 days ago

        > But once Hitchens started writing apologetics for Bush's 2nd Iraq War the two of them completely fell out.

        I'm so tired of major atheist figures acting like religion is the only evil in the world. From Hitchens cheerleading a pointless, unjustified war because it's nominally against unpleasant religious people, to Dawkins (https://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/2011/07/atheis..., https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/18/richar...) actually telling a woman in public that only women who live under religious oppression are allowed to complain about sexual harassment.

        • B1FF_PSUVM 104 days ago

          > And also a rabid anti-imperialist and fond of comparing the United States to ancient Rome.

          That's kind of funny, because Rome acquired most all the provinces it ever did under the allegedly virtuous Republic.

          Republican (not the US party) propaganda never made much sense, not even in the days of "sic semper tyrannis", but somehow, like good advertising, it always stuck.

        • rsj_hn 104 days ago

          Absolutely love his essays -- he's my favorite essayist. For those wanting an introduction to his work, I recommend his essay on Charles Lindbergh, "The Eagle is Grounded". You can read it online for free:

          https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/gore-vidal-charles...

          • pstuart 104 days ago

            I trust that you've read Palimpsest? It's a great read as well.

            • mturmon 99 days ago

              I have, and I enjoyed it, but I like the essays more and they have stayed with me more.

          • clivestaples 105 days ago

            I taught Gore Vidal how to use a PowerBook in 1995 while he was in California to film his A&E biography. The ticket said "George Vidal" and he said he was a writer. I asked what he had written and he replied, "Check your local library." At the moment I knew it was the only and only Gore not George.

            He hated the computer and said he was going back to writing longhand on legal pads. Still not sure if that was a joke or not.

            • plink 105 days ago

              ..."I asked what he had written"...

              the quintessence of clay-footed STEM.

              • clivestaples 105 days ago

                The funny thing is that I was a creative writing major at the time and already knew of him. Of course, I didn't know what he looked like but as soon as he admitted being published, I immediately said, "Oh, you're GORE Vidal, not George Vidal." He laughed.

                • chrisdhoover 105 days ago

                  Yet here on HN we find an article by Camila Paglia on Gore Vidal. Very interesting to see literati here. Is is a shame not to see more discussion. Oh well on to the next google AMP sux post

                  • tomcam 104 days ago

                    It is apparent to me that someone at HN is putting a thumb on the scale, probably dang, who as I recall has a degree in the liberal arts. I am totally fine with these bonus posts, many of which I ignore. I really love the curation of Hacker News.

                • dang 104 days ago

                  Please don't toxic up HN threads like this. The mistake in your comment is obvious if one simply reads the parent.

                  https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

                  Edit: can you please stop posting unsubstantive comments generally? We're trying for a bit better than internet defaults here.

                  • plink 104 days ago

                    You’re right. My apologies.

                    • dang 103 days ago

                      Appreciated. It led to an interesting reply from clivestaples, so there's that.

                  • uxp100 105 days ago

                    Take note of what the poster said the name on the ticket was.

              • billfruit 104 days ago

                His historical novels are great reads, for their irreverent take on American history, esp the novels 1876 and Burr. Burr esp, in the wake of recent Hamilton-mania, should be interesting, and also for the very swift manner in which revolutionary idealism gave way to political expediancy after the establishment of the republic, none of the major figures including Washington and Jefferson, Hamilton come across as good human beings in the final analysis.

              • discardedaway 104 days ago

                Gore Vidal had some pretty horrific commentary about the Polanski rape case if you check his wikipedia page:

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gore_Vidal#Interview_on_his_th...

                • s4n1ty 104 days ago

                  Huffington Post, as recently as 4 or 5 years ago, were writing articles downplaying Polanski's rape of that girl. There is a surprising strain of Polanski apologism among those who are the first to claim the mantle of feminism.

                  It's a wired hypocrisy.

                  • rhizome 103 days ago

                    I don't think it's an hypocrisy so much as a conservatism to avoid what happened to, oh, Fatty Arbuckle. Or HUAC'ers. This has waned a bit in the wake of Bill Cosby, but I always felt there was a desire to hold onto the greatness of these peoples' art for as long as possible before their reputations were sullied forever. Then again, The Cosby Show is back on TV in reruns, so what do I know.

                  • pstuart 104 days ago

                    Yes, nothing to be proud of; but it was a dismissive commentary of something he had no part of, and a culture he had no love for.