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Remembering Gore Vidal

Updated on October 26, 2014

Gore Vidal: The Writer

The Subject Matter of the Books of Gore Vidal

Throughout his life writing novels, Vidal examined the corruption of the public and private life of the individual, and how it affects the psyche of the characters within his stories. He gained success with is first military novel, "Williwaw", which focused on men-at-war during the Second World War in Alaska. It was his third novel, however, "The City and the Pillar", that drew the attention of the public for featuring a male homosexual relationship. He was known for pushing the boundaries of social norms in order to force people to their lives and the directions they were heading in. This led to Vidal having to assume the pen name "Edgar Box" in order to continue his writings, which included the mystery novels "Death in the Fifth Position", "Death before Bedtime", and "Death Likes it Hot."

Throughout his essays, however, he focused on the history of the United States and how foreign policy as reduced the country to an empire. Where he caught the most flak, however, were on his essays on sexuality, and that all men and women were inherently pansexual, so that there was no need for the terms "homosexual" and "heterosexual". This inspired many rounds of debates with other intellectuals, such as William F. Buckley and Norman mailer.

The Life of Gore Vidal: The American Writer

Born in 1925 in West Point, New York, Gore Vidal has been considered as one of the most prominent American writers and public intellectuals of his time. He was known for his wit and polished style of writing throughout his novels, screenplays and essays. His life in the political realm had begun even before he was born, having been raised a political family with his grandfather being, the U.S. Senator for Oklahoma from 1907-1921 and again in 1931 until 1937.

Being an only child, he had an early experience with the military, as his father was the first aeronautics instructor of the military academy. His father eventually because the director of the Commerce Department's Bureau of Air Commerce during the presidency of Roosevelt, as well as one of the first Army Air Corps pilots, and was known for his involvement with Amelia Earhart.

But it was his mother that inspired his creative side, with her debut on Broadway as an extra in "Sign of the Leopard." However, the marriage between his parents ended when he was only thirteen, and their subsequent marriages resulted in four half-siblings and four step-brothers.

His Feud with William F. Buckley

It was in 1968 that both political intellectuals were invited to the ABC television network to speak on the conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties. What started off as discussions quickly descended into vitriolic personal attacks on each other's characters; Gore Vidal considered Buckley's supporters to be "pro-Nazi", which Buckley referred to Vidal as a "queer" and threatened him with physical violence.

It was in Chicago when William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal seated right by each other in the ABC news studios, engaged themselves in a feud on live television, at precisely 9.39 p.m. EST. Before going on with the details of the verbal feud, more light should be placed on the two personalities, followed by their achievements and status in the society. William F. (Frank) Buckley Jr. is regarded as a commentator and conservative author and a notable part of the American literary work. The political magazine named National Review was founded by him in the year 1955, which contributed its part in stimulating the movement of conservatism. He is known for his wide vocabulary and also his ideologies. Gore Vidal is also a recognized American writer with numerable novels, screenplays, essays and stage plays to back his superior writing skills. Born in to a political family gave him much exposure to the political world in America and helped in grow in to a public intellectual with an attractive epigrammatic wit, patrician style and also a very polished and contemporary touch to his writing. The both are best known for their ideological differences and the verbal feud at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago on the 28th of August in the very same year.

It can be said that the verbal aggression between the two of them mainly had its roots in their ideological difference and the way they thought. Previously also, they have been known to have involved in debates on two different occasions. One was in the year 1962, at the show Open End and the other in 1964, in San Francisco at the Republican convention. These prior debates have been the indicatives for this final outburst.

The debate on the 28th of August 1968 had stated relatively calmly, unless and until the gentlemen engaged themselves in a nasty verbal outburst, with words that were never ever spoken on TV (that too live television) at least during that time. With more than 10 million people watching the show live, the penultimate encounter happened when Gore Vidal called William F. Buckley Jr a “Pro- Crypto- Nazi” at the height of their disagreement. Vidal was later on seen confessing that he did not mean to say that, he was actually thinking of using the word fascist, which he could not deliver. This crude verbal assault was backed by Buckley- who called Vidal a queer and threatened to such up his face. The verbal abuse went something like this- “Now listen, you queer. Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered.” Later on this heat was brought to the court, when the two men sued each other in the year 1969.

His Feud with Norman Mailer

It was during the taping of "The Dick Cavett Show" where the two had met backstage, and Mailer had reportedly head-butted Vidal. They had continued to insult each other throughout the show, which had been inflamed by Vidal's reference to Mailer having stabbed his wife. The rest of the interview continued to descend into personal attacks on both sides.

The Education of Gore Vidal 2003

Vidal's Influence

Gore Vidal as an American writer influenced many to take up the pen and continue to write political essays and other fictional works of their own. He believed that his homosexuality led to the writing community denying him the full recognition he deserved as a writer. Throughout the rest of his life, however, he continued to reside in Italy with Howard Austen until his dead in 2003. It was said Vidal mourned Austen's death heavily and took to drinking in excess, until his own death in 2012 from pneumonia.

Gore Vidal V. William Buckley


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