Gore Vidal: 1925 — 2012

Wednesday, 1 August, 2012

Gore Vidal Among the celebrated works of the late Gore Vidal, wit, essayist, playwright, historian, author, provocateur, gay icon, conspiracy theorist, would-be-senator and former resident of Ravello on the Amalfi Coast, was Lincoln: A Novel. On the back of this, back in 2005, Vanity Fair asked him to assess C. A. Tripp’s much-discussed, hotly-disputed The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln. In his review, Vidal pondered the big question: Was Lincoln Bisexual?

“The young Lincoln had a love affair with a handsome youth and store owner, Joshua Speed, in Springfield, Illinois. They shared a bed for four years, not necessarily, in those frontier days, the sign of a smoking gun — only messy male housekeeping. Nevertheless, four years is a long time to be fairly uncomfortable.”

Vidal rounded off the piece with an observation filled with admiration and acidity: “Finally, without this great ethical Lincoln there would be no United States and despite our current divisions, we should be forever grateful not only to him, but of course to his Creator, who, on our behalf, brought him to an early puberty; thus, making our restored Union God’s country.”

Sadly, long before the end, Vidal turned into a bore of the most tedious kind. Ironically, it was in the pages of Vanity Fair that he was exposed and skewered by the late Christopher Hitchens in an article headlined “Vidal Loco“. Hitchens claimed that the events of 9/11 “accentuated a crackpot strain” in the author. He wrote that Vidal’s work after the terrorist attacks consists of “a small anthology of half-argued and half-written shock pieces [which] either insinuated or asserted that the administration had known in advance of the attacks.”

“He openly says that the Bush administration was ‘probably’ in on the 9/11 attacks, a criminal complicity that would ‘certainly fit them to a T’; that Timothy McVeigh was ‘a noble boy’, no more murderous than generals Patton and Eisenhower; and that ‘Roosevelt saw to it that we got that war’ by inciting the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor,” Hitchens added. It was sad to see the elegant Gore Vidal fall to these depths, but in his defence it has to be said that 9/11 did reveal the crazed side of many far duller people. Unlike Vidal, they contributed nothing of value to letters or debate or style.

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