Wednesday, December 06, 2006

more gore, por favor

so john and I made it to the skirball last night, after a lovely drive along mulholland to avoid rush hour traffic, and were first on the wait list. of course we got into the lecture. and it was worth it - vidal didn't disappoint. he's using a wheelchair these days but he's just as sharp as he ever was. and funny. and patrician. the conversation ran the gamut from contemporary writers to abraham lincoln to jackie kennedy to newt gingrich to media consolidation to american imperialism. and his career(s) as a novelist, pundit, screenwriter, playwright, would-be politician, and actor. and he does a couple of mean impressions: bush, john kennedy and aaron burr (although we'll have to take his word on that one).

I didn't take notes but I'll try to quote (possibly misquote) some of his one-liners:
  • "today we have many more good writers than good readers."
  • "it takes a certain kind of genius to make history boring to children."
  • "jackie had a thirst for revenge towards anyone she thought had wronged her family."
  • in response to the question "is it enough if bush is just hamstrung for the next two years by congress?": "isn't it enough? we all just want him to go back to texas."
  • after relating the story of aaron burr's duel with alexander hamilton and burr's belief that the world wasn't big enough for both burr and hamilton, upon reflecting towards the end of his life: "Aaron Burr said 'If I had read more voltaire, and less rousseau, I would have realized the world was big enough for both aaron burr and alexander hamilton.'"
how's that for meta? I'm quoting vidal quoting burr. I wish I could remember more.

in any case, I was grateful to get the opportunity to see him speak when I had the opportunity. I keep trying to think of someone who can be considered the next gore vidal, a prolific writer and thinker, a man or woman with a huge set of cojones willing to say what they truly believe, on camera and off, regardless of how (un)popular that opinion might be. someone willing to call people, the media, and goverments on their bullshit. someone who can be considered a true polymath. I'm coming up short.

am I getting really old, that I'm beginning to wax nostalgic for the gore vidals, bella abzugs, and norman mailers of yore? perhaps I am. and I was right about one thing before we went: john and I averaged a good 30 years younger than the overwhelming majority of the crowd. which is a terrible shame, because the kids today - they need to hear what he has to say.

and as jessica said recently, youtube is truly god's work. I present to you the infamous vidal/buckely debate in 1968, wherein vidal calls buckley a nazi, and buckley calls vidal a queer. brilliant.


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