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October 03, 2005

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GORE VIDAL

  Gore_vidal_painting It hardly seems possible that Gore Vidal has today turned 80. The prose of America's most effective public intellectual still has all the energy and fresh anger of someone in their twenties, combined with a richly-textured wisdom that a lifetime of working with ideas has ripened into the kind of fine old wine that warms you all the way down to your toes.

The man who is affectionately referred to -- when writers who, like myself,  have been inspired and taught by this quintessentially American radical, chat with each other about him -- as "Uncle Gore" was, it seems, born wise. His deep understanding of the world and of human character shone through in his first published novel, Williwaw, written when he was only 21, and has never ceased to enlighten and entertain. This country's unrivaled political essayist, a novelist, playwright, scenarist, literary critic, television host,  raconteur extraordinaire, lecturer, an eternal rebel and the greatest American pamphleteer since Tom Paine, long before the Stonewall riots Vidal by example taught generations of "same-sexers" --his preferred vocable -- how to live an open, honest life that never betrayed any shame at loving differently from the majority, and that refused to accept the limitations on possibility imposed by prejudice and ignorance.

Just in time for Uncle Gore's birthday comes the simultaneous publication, in the U.S. and U.K., of "Gore Vidal's America" by my old friend Dennis Altman. I'll deliver a report on this book, which I have just received, to you shortly.

For the moment, though, let me recommend to you the very best of the numerous websites devoted to Gore Vidal -- The Gore Vidal Index, lovingly assembled and kept up to date by the University of Pittsburgh's Harry Kloman. This first-rate, multi-media website has an extensive collection of written and audio-visual work by and about Gore -- including dozens of long and short film and video clips on-line that show Vidal being interviewed, making speeches, or sparring on television with his adversaries, excerpts from Vidal's own writings, a smart and sensitive opening biographical introduction by Kloman, and much more.....this site is a treasure trove, both for those who admire and esteem Gore Vidal, and for those deprived souls who are unfamiliar with him and his work. No wonder this site has already attracted a half-million visitors.

So, do yourself a favor: celebrate Gore Vidal's birthday today by visiting The Gore Vidal Index, scroll down the column on the left-hand side of the page, and sample some of what's on offer. You'll be glad you did. And to dear Uncle Gore, we say -- as they do in his beloved Italy, where he has spent part of his time for many years -- a hearty Cent' Anni ! May you live a hundred years -- your work in many forms and mediums, and your unrivaled skills as a communicator, have made you America's greatest teacher of history to the widest audience imaginable. And the life you have lived has been a model of courage and integrity that has inspired many. Your life has made it possible for many other people to live their lives with truth. You are irreplaceable. Cent'Anni!

Posted by Direland at 12:52 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Gore Vidal has long been one of my idols, even though some aspects of his character and worldview (particularly his misanthropy) are objectively retrograde and reactionary. Among the things I have most appreciated about him are his relentess attacks on the American political system, calling out the duopoly, I think, even before Nader coined the term.

So I have found the softness with which Vidal lately regards the Democratic Party somewhat distressing and this came to a head recently when I came upon this from an interview he did in September with the execrable Emma Brockes of the Guardian:

"Clinton was, in his opinion, the best president of the past 50 years and he believes that Hillary, who has visited him in Ravello and of whom he has a high opinion, will run in 2008."

Lordy -- has there ever been two people who embodied the Two-party-sytem-that-is-really-a-one-party-system more completely than Mr. and Mrs. Sociopath? He has her to Ravello? I'm crushed. It seems one more vital, rebellious mind has been corroded by the Bush tyranny. Is there no one left?

Posted by: marky | Nov 13, 2005 1:26:15 PM

Favorite Vidal quote: "Always a godfather; never a god."


Posted by: r | Oct 5, 2005 7:14:09 PM

HB! hope to see him soon in a televised forum that allows for extended, thoughtful remarks.

Posted by: patrick | Oct 4, 2005 1:52:56 AM

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