Saturday, June 2, 2007

I Love Gore Vidal!

You know how people ask that silly question "if you were stranded on a deserted island with only one person, who would you choose?" I hate that hypothetical stuff but....what an education you'd get if the one person was Gore Vidal. Since there'd only be the two of us, I wouldn't even have to worry about being intimidated by his amazing depth and breadth of knowledge on so many varied subjects. He'd HAVE to talk to me eventually!

Actually, he already is. At least that's how it seems as I listen to him read the second half of his biography, begun with Palimpsest back in '95. Yes, I know that earlier in this blog I told you that authors seldom make good readers but in Vidal's case that isn't so. In fact, no one else could read this memoir. His voice is lovely, so full of weariness (for outliving most of his friends and his dear partner of 50 years, Howard Austen) and sadness for our once proud country that seems to have hit rock bottom during the Bush years.

There are very few famous (and infamous) names from the worlds of literature, film and politics that haven't crossed Vidal's path. He's adept at imitating voices and does so with gusto when speaking of telling incidents involving Truman Capote, Tennessee (the Bird) Williams, Johnny Carson or the Kennedys. One wouldn't want to be the recipient of his sharped witted zingers but it's terribly funny when someone else, like Barbara Cartland, is.

The reasons I love Gore Vidal are many. How can you not appreciate a man who still writes all his work on yellow legal pads? His affinity for Italy brought him to my very favorite town on the Amalfi coast, Ravello, where he and Howard lived for nearly 30 years I believe. The first time I was there I had lunch in a wonderful little restaurant on a hill overlooking the water. Apparently he and Howard frequented this place and there was a photo of them with Bill and Hillary prominently displayed on the wall (much to the chagrin of my conservative traveling companions). I love his politics and the courage he had to speak out early on when only a few of us acknowledged that the Supreme Court took the presidency away from Al Gore and the American people.

Point to Point Navigation is not just a memoir but a fascinating look at the cultural history of the past fifty years. I highly recommend it. While you're reading that I'll be moving on to Vidal's fiction. It seems he even wrote a few mysteries under a pseudonym. It may take me a while but I'm a determined reader!

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