Gore Vidal: In Memoriam
I adore Vidal’s work. Read his American history series, his memoirs and his Caligula in addition to his books of essays. Saw The Best Man with James Earl Jones, John Larroquette, Candice Bergen twice on Broadway (2012) which is still garnering a wide audience, and viewed him whenever I could when he was on Charlie Rose and elsewhere.
I appreciated him only when I was older, after I’d read his work. In my youth, I thought him defensive and somewhat sad, viewing him in his arguments with Buckley (I am not or ever was a conservative) who bested him roundly and then litigated against him. Hmm. But they parted if not friends, in the last, with no legal bindings between them as Gore apologized truthfully, tweakingly telling Buckley he had joked calling him a “Crypto-Nazi.” If you think about it, it is bitingly funny while Buckley’s retort was not. Buckley got personal and farted an epithet toward Vidal’s gay sexual preference, revealing Buckley’s own homophobia and hovering cruelty which at the time carried a weight of legitimacy.
Today, viewing the video clip where Vidal and Buckley gnaw each other’s throats, Gore comes out ahead. Bravo, Vidal! You have withstood the test of time, as I truly believe will your writings. You are a genius and we are the better for it as Americans, having read your edgy, insightful thoughts. You were a beacon and now have quite blown yourself out. To me, you will always remain.
This sonnet is a tribute to him who I adore for his humor, his writerly acumen and his artistic genius. Your words live. Thanks.
Acerbic, vitriolic, searing words,
In you fermented, then poured out, a draught
Of wine. We sipped refreshed the wisdom heard.
It quenched our ravaged souls and spirits wrought.
We culturally dispossessed? You raised us high.
Redeemed our history’s worth with wit and grace,
And literary gifts none could decry.
Your genius ne’r could Truman er’ displace.
Self-described emotionally cold were you
Patrician, righteous, prophet of the age,
To Buckley calumnious, to Mailer crude,
Tiresias: forthright, just, a humorous sage.
Your writings live, though Death choked off your time.
You lived a maverick’s life, one of a kind.