A bright light, one of our best, has been extinguished. Gore Vidal is dead at 86.
I think I’ve read every book he ever wrote from The City and the Pillar, a breakthrough look at gay life in the 1940’s to my favorite Julian, and his six novels of American history which offer intense images of the US as it mutated through time. You can read all the history books you want but if you want American history to come alive you have to read include Burr, Lincoln, 1876, Empire, Hollywood and The Golden Age. These are, to some extent, stories of the rulers of the US and not the people who built the US but don’t let that turn you off, you won’t understand American history without them.
This is my favorite quote from Vidal:
There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party…and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt—until recently… and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.
Vidal’s politics vacillated. He was a radical but not a revolutionist. He pointed out that FDR deliberately provoked the Japanese in the period leading up to Pearl Harbor and said that Truman’s nuclear terrorist strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 were unnecessary. Gore thought they were the opening salvo of the Cold War and attempts to frightens the Russian, much like the February 1945 firebombing terrorist attack on Dresden, an open city, and not a military target, which was hit shortly before Soviet armies reached it. He was part of a movement demanding the George Bush be arrested and tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. First Pelosi, and now Obama stopped that effort for the obvious reason that they’d be in the box with Bush and Clinton. That’s the same reason that Bush refused to prosecute Clinton for murdering half a million Iraqi children,
These are photos of Vidal and his first love, Jim Trimble. Vidal said that he never loved anyone else after Trimble was killed in the invasion of Iwo Jima but he went to have a relationship with his lifelong companion, Jim Austen, that lasted 53 years.