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Gore Vidal: a celebrity, a life writ large

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Vidal famously called conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr. a "pro-crypto-Nazi," got sued for it, and apologized to the judge by saying: "It was a modest slip of the tongue, I was searching for the word 'fascist.' " Besides his famous jibe-fests with Buckley and Norman Mailer, who once head-butted him backstage, Vidal was well-known for championing literary causes and education, which he said at length were on the decline in the US.

The motivation to convey what he understood to be the correct view of history was a driving force in Vidal's life, according to historian and author Michael Roth, president of the California College of the Arts.

"Vidal's great contribution has been as one of America's great historical novelists," he says. "His life has been dedicated to reimagining things about the country's past and the country's leading figures. Vidal thinks he's giving deeper historical truth by giving skeleton facts and then imagining the flesh of characters on those facts."

He embraced popular culture, admitting to liking Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. He voiced his own likeness on “The Simpsons,” and he had close connections with figures as diverse as John Kennedy, Susan Sarandon, Eli Wallach, and Paul Newman.

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