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Thursday, June 2, 2016

When Silence Suffocates

I began revering the late Gore Vidal as a novelist after coming across "Kalki" following its 1978 publication. Then I admired his persona as professional provocateur, initially via his public battles with Norman Mailer and others, and even more as I later consumed his trenchant essays and blistering historical fiction. If the recent film "Lincoln" or the book on which it was based - "Team Of Rivals" - helped shape your current view of our 16th president, I don't recommend Gore Vidal's "Lincoln" (1984).

But if you have minimal tolerance for cage rattling, I do highly recommend you devote ninety minutes watching "The United States Of Amnesia". Aside from fortifying my esteem for Vidal's work, the old footage shown in this documentary reminded me how Vidal's young age crankiness and perpetual cynicism contributed to his uncanny prescience. Watching the film made me long for a fraction of his foresight, let alone moral courage. I'd lose about half my family and many of my friends publicly uttering just a portion of Vidal's provocations. But it would be liberating to do so. That silly need for approval can be suffocating.

Which artist of any kind prods you to speak your mind more, approval aside?

"Art is the enemy of democracy."  - Gore Vidal 



  1. You introduced me to Gore Vidal way back then; I still remember our discussions of the book, which was one of his most accessible, at least of those I've read. Some of the imagery from the book has stayed with me for the more than 30 years since. I read and enjoyed Myra Breckenridge, too (and possibly Julian - not entirely sure). After struggling through at least one of his admirable historical fiction trilogy (1876?) and Creation, I put Vidal down for a while, waiting for a time when life and work were less demanding and I could devote more concentration to my reading. Then, in 1998 or 99, I tried The Smithsonian Institution, and my intellectual/general historical knowledge self esteem took a beating. I'll have to wait until I retire before I tackle another one...put it on the list.

  2. p.s. I know I didn't answer your blog question.

    1. I don't care at all that you didn't "...answer the question..." Your comment was a nice reminder of something we've shared for almost 40 years. That's good enough.