Been busy, but I did want to post a little something about Vidal. I had noticed that his most recent thing, which, if I remember correctly was many months ago was not up to his old stuff. I'd seen him on TV and he wasn't looking great, so I cannot say that I was particularly surprised when I read that he'd died.
As usual I drifted around seeing what others had to say. The New York Times was kind of snotty, which I am sure that he would have expected and probably welcomed. There was also the usual right wing suspects who hated on him, but given what Vidal had said about Buckley after he died one would have expected nothing less.
Going to the “left” wing blogs was interesting, but not particularly surprising to me particularly Lawyers, Guns and Money. The second post by a member of their club was as nasty as I expected, although the fact that he linked to this Slate article was somewhat amusing. It was a particularly weak contrarian piece that claimed Vidal was anti-Semitic because of what he said about the Podhoretzes being “unassemilated Jews.” The crack was of course, about their determination to place the interests of Israel above those of the United States. I thought that point was obvious to anyone who followed their politics even a little.
Some commentators claimed that he defended McVeigh and justified his actions and those comments caused me to go the the Vanity Fair article to see that in fact he had done no such thing. Although, his conspiracy theories were a little more then I could accept, he seemed to be trying to understand and explain what McVeigh thought and why McVeigh did what he did, not justify it.
Several people argued that Vidal had placed himself beyond they pale with his comments about the Roman Polanski rape charges. I'm not sure I don't more or less agree with him although not precisely the way he phrased it. But I attempted to make the point that people still read Faulkner even after he talked about shooting people in the streets when asked about civil rights matters of the time. Got me banned from at least one blog to which I choose not to link, thank you very much.
Several people commented that Vidal was well you know simply not that good anyway so that we can safely ignore what he had to say, and any way people no longer read him or pay any attention to him (even though there is a revival of The Best Man currently running on Broadway, very successfully).
His statement that J. Edger Hoover and Clyde Tolson were the only two men who could live together in Washington, D.C. after a discussion of homosexuality in general was a shocker to my little middle class and mid western male mind. Do you think that people who are homosexual can act like just “normal” people? My my was I naive.
I do think that he was as pure, clear and elegant a writer of the English language as there has been this side of the Atlantic (ocean not magazine). I found his essays when I was in my late teens and early 20s and I was amazed at how well and clearly he wrote and the positions he took. Growing up where I did I had no idea you could take those positions and get away with it in the nation with which I was familiar. I remember watching him or TV just a month after I returned from Southeast Asia, when he called Buckley at crypto-Nazi (although he did later apologize, he meant crypto-fascist he said, but misspoke in the heat of the moment). I thought this guy is right and those people in the streets are right and they are going to carry the day. I want to be there and help. Little did I realize that this was the high water mark of the left in this country.
Whenever I write anything about Vidal, my own stuff looks and reads clunky to me because I'm always comparing my writing to his, and lets face it I am just not one of the half dozen most elegant prose stylists in the English language.
Well anyway I feel like I can certainly think or curse him for a great deal of my political beliefs and my open mindedness (or at least I hope I'm open minded.