Wednesday, August 1, 2012

RIP: Gore Vidal - Oct. 3, 1925 - July 31, 2012

Gore Vidal

Novelist, playwright, memoirist, screenwriter, and -- in his greatest role in my humble opinion -- essayist on politics and culture.  Of the many and various books he wrote, the one that delighted me the most was Two Sisters: A Novel in the Form of a Memoir, published in 1970; it was a deliciously vicious portrait ... and I do mean vicious ... of the notable (and notably dishonest) diarist, Anais Nin, who, to Vidal's great displeasure, claimed she had had an affair with him.

Gore himself claimed to have had an affair with the actress Diana Lynn, and was engaged to Joanne Woodward before she married Paul Newman, but the longest love of his life was with a man named Howard Auster, a photographer; they met in 1950; Auster died in 2003.  Gore said the secret to the success of their relationship was that they never had sex with one another, but only with others.  "It's easy to sustain a relationship when sex plays no part, and impossible, I have observed, when it does," Gore said.

Some other samples of Gore's wit and word-mastery:

"I never miss a chance to have sex or appear on television."

"It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail."

"A narcissist is someone better looking than you are."

"Envy is the central fact of American life."

"Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little."

"The United States was founded by the brightest people in the country — and we haven't seen them since."

"Andy Warhol is the only genius I've ever known with an IQ of 60"

"Fifty percent of people won't vote, and fifty percent don't read newspapers. I hope it's the same fifty percent."

"The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along, paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return"

"Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn."

"The more money an American accumulates, the less interesting he becomes."

"The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so."

"Congress no longer declares war or makes budgets. So that's the end of the constitution as a working machine."

"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."

"As the age of television progresses the Reagans will be the rule, not the exception. To be perfect for television is all a President has to be these days."

"Sex is. There is nothing more to be done about it. Sex builds no roads, writes no novels and sex certainly gives no meaning to anything in life but itself."

"Think of the earth as a living organism that is being attacked by billions of bacteria whose numbers double every forty years. Either the host dies, or the virus dies, or both die."

"There is no such thing as a homosexual or a heterosexual person. There are only homo- or heterosexual acts. Most people are a mixture of impulses if not practices."

"There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise."

Though he died just yesterday, I've already, on a wintry day in 2001, visited and photographed his and Auster's gravestone in Washington DC's Rock Creek Cemetery. (I'd gone to the cemetery to see the St. Gaudens sculpture of Henry Adams' wife, and just happened to notice, nearby, the Vidal/Auster pre-planning.)

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