The readership of an author often goes up on their death. I hope this is so with Gore Vidal who died this week. He was a great American observer and acerbic writer of novels, screenplays, essays and reviews.
He spent much of his later life living in Italy. He died this week in Los Angeles aged 86, presumably not trusting Italian medicine in the end.
Jabs against the American Empire
He was beloved of chat show producers in the UK who wanted an American to bash the USA. He could bash with the best. Not random punches but well targeted jabs at what he saw as a fading empire.
He wrote best about the political heart of the empire, Washington DC. He wrote a string of historical political novels, the best of which was Lincoln. He gives an affectionate portrait of Abe Lincoln battling to save the Union and reluctantly accepting that all slavery should be abolished, not just confined to the South.
Horoerotic scene in Ben-Hur beyond Chuck
His screenplays included parts of Ben-Hur, for which he was not credited. He wrote a homoerotic scene for Charlton Heston as Ben-Hur and Stephen Boyd as his Roman friend from childhood. But Vidal insisted the director not tell Chuck the underlying motive of the scene. Chuck would have frozen, he argued.
In 1989 he wrote a strong profile of Orson Wells, profiling his genius and his weaknesses.
Commie-weirdo-Jew-fags get a bashing
He wrote from the left, taking a radical view of America. Take this from his description of the 1964 Republican Convention which nominated Barry Goldwater for President. Eisenhower, the previous Republican President, gave a speech. “At last Ike was giving it to those commie-weirdo-Jew-fags [in the media] who did not believe in the real America of humming electric chairs, well-packed prisons, and kitchens fitted with every electrical device that a small brown person of extranational provenance might successfully operate at a fraction of the legal minimum wage.”
Go read him.