Gore Vidal has passed on.
I first heard of Gore Vidal when I was a child, and I watched the television miniseries for Gore Vidal’s Lincoln, which starred Sam Waterson and Mary Tyler Moore. I watched it at home with my family, and my fifth grade class also watched it, since it did such an excellent job in laying out the issues surrounding the Civil War and also the personality (and eccentricities) of Lincoln and his family.
The second time that I heard of Gore Vidal was when my Grandpa (a fan of Vidal) showed us a news program’s interview of Vidal. Vidal was arguing that we should not be interfering in other countries but should focus on internal matters, and he appealed to Henry Clay, whom he said most have not heard of because they don’t teach much history in American schools! I got a chuckle out of Vidal’s wit, and I also agreed with what Vidal was saying, since (at the time) I was a Pat Buchanan devotee.
I saw other interviews with Vidal, in which he criticized the religious right and talked about his own sexual orientation. As a right-winger at the time, I disagreed with him. Now, I can see some of his points.
I also saw a clip of Vidal getting cussed out by William F. Buckley, which was classic! See here.
After 9/11, I bought a few books by Vidal on American empire. Vidal leaned in the direction of 9/11 conspiracy theories. He did not think that the U.S. establishment caused 9/11, mind you, but my impression was that he was arguing that it intentionally did not prevent 9/11, for it wanted 9/11 to happen so there could be a pretense for American empire. One argument he made was that the authorities ordinarily paid attention when a plane got off course, but they did not do so on 9/11. You can read a response to that sort of argument in this article.
I saw Vidal on the History Channel’s documentary on Lincoln, and Vidal said that the War on Terror was like a war on dandruff. I don’t entirely agree with him on that, but I liked what he said because I did not care for the group-think or the propaganda that followed 9/11, plus I could identify somewhat with Ron Paul’s claim that there is blowback that is a response to our intervention throughout the world.
I read Gore Vidal’s Burr when I was in graduate school, for pleasure reading. I can’t say that I found it to be an engrossing book, but it was interesting in that it discussed the different roles of key players in American history (i.e., Andrew Jackson), and the narrator also noted that the slave children on Thomas Jefferson’s plantation looked a lot like Jefferson! Read here about the Sally Hemings controversy. I want to read more of his books when I have the time, such as Julian.
And Gore Vidal was on an episode of Family Guy!
R.I.P., Gore Vidal.
UPDATE: A while back, I blogged about Bill Kauffman’s excellent book on anti-war conservatism: Ain’t My America. Well, Kauffman wrote a spectacular review of Gore Vidal’s The Last Republican for The American Conservative. See here. Essentially, Kauffman argues that Vidal had conservative ideas. Kauffman’s writing-style takes some getting used to, but his insights are worth reading!