August 05, 2012

Not for the old ladies in Duluth.




“Heaven, if it exists, has just gotten a lot more interesting.” Clive said to me when he rang to tell me that Gore Vidal had died.

Sitting poolside in Ravello Vidal declared, "As you can see, my needs are simple." Asked whether the setting inspired him, he wisecracked, "Yeah, it inspires me to write a film script to pay my bills."

Long before today’s celebrities gave parties for a living, Vidal gave them for the pleasure of his friends’ company.  And although there must have been many parties in the past, and there probably would be many parties in the future, the most enjoyable for me was a three-day bash Vidal arranged in his villa in Ravello. It was beautifully planned and exquisitely executed, even if there was plenty of skinny-dipping.

When ask to choose the proverbial ‘someone’ with whom he’d be willing to spend the rest of his life on a desert island, Vidal refused to answer.  I see the wry, half-smile of satisfaction that his protective armor had remained securely in place, and remember the voice cold and dry as a martini.

Vidal the well-bred young man of scintillating brilliance who tried to fashion a career for himself in the difficult context in which this fashioning had to take place, the late 20th-century America, an environment not only increasingly hostile to thought, but also to patrician entitlement and, you sometimes suspect, intelligence per se.

In his memoir, “Point To Point Navigation” he imagines himself with Johnny Carson on the balcony in Ravello.

CARSON
          What’s that phrase you use all the time for the country?
VIDAL
          The United States of Amnesia.
CARSON
          I’ll open with that, then you read of the “latest” Iraq election news with the quote from 1967.
VIDAL
          But where do we do this?
CARSON
          Oh, we’ll find a show.
VIDAL
          There isn’t one. Remember? You’re dead.
CARSON (evasively)
          No, no. I’m just living down at the beach, I think it’s called in seclusion.

"Because there is no cosmic point to the life that each of us perceives on this distant bit of dust at galaxy's edge," he once wrote, "all the more reason for us to maintain in proper balance what we have here.  "Because there is nothing else. No thing. This is it. And quite enough, all in all."



17 comments:

frenchtoast said...

Yes, quite enough, all in all.
Thanks.

Charles said...

Yes, my friend quite enough!

Anonymous said...

Not for the old ladies of Duluth? Fer sure!
Nice post.

Baldur said...

SELAH!

Mona said...

Right about now I can see Vidal, absolutely convulsed at the thought of us trying to tell how we felt about him. Can you just hear him; "Why, you withered ingenue, what do you think you're doing? Stop, Hacks, this is Vidal speaking."
SELAH!

The Reverend Wenceslas Muff said...

Wrong, he would have loved the blunders!
As age advanced he grew progressively more malicious, relishing each hatchet-stroke as it was delivered.

The Lady Torte de Shell said...

But oh, that library! What books!

Ms. Edna (squared) said...

One of the Dear Readers has taken offence with the title of this post.
Dear Reader, let me assure you, that the Duluth referred to is not the City in Minnesota, but the title of a book by Mr.Vidal.

Beata said...

Shall we walk in velvet shoes:
Wherever we go?
Silence will fall like dews
On white silence below.

Thank you for the post.

a friend said...

My guess is, by now, the brilliant Mr. Vidal has received his Grand Surprise that there is another life, and is being hosted at some elegant, heavenly dinner.

I'd love to hear his quip on how that happened, in spite of his Mensa level intelligence and cocksure judgments.

Lordy, that guy could write. How I miss the exchanges between him and Bill Buckley. It was redolent of Hyde Park and Shaw and Chesterton.

I do hope Bill is at the reception too and they are exchanging elegant barbs again.

I can imagine Buckley telling him, "Welcome, Gore! Now that you're here, the average IQ has gone down on Earth and up in Heaven. The same thing happened when I arrived here....but it was a much larger jump!"

Saskia said...

Watching the Gore Vidal Appreciation was chilling. This might have been how the prophet Jeremiah would have come through if we got the chance to see him on the Charlie Rose show. Thank you, Beata and thank you, Ms Edna.

Bill S. Los Angeles said...

I very rarely post comments on the web, either here or elsewhere, but I felt compelled to post this one just to say that although I never knew Gore Vidal, I feel like I did, and I will miss having his increasingly-irascible voice presiding over our noisy national dialogue.
He was outrageous, funny, and, as happens with all supreme narcissists, borderline boring. I loved being with him and couldn't wait to leave him. Underneath the grand performance he was also, I felt, immensely lonely. He may have worn an emotional armor, as this excellent post reports, but he certainly needed and cherished friendship.

Bill Santa Monica said...

He read a briliant piece about Lincoln at the Hollywood Bowl two years ago this August. It was a Copeland night. I still get chills when I think it about it. An extraordinary evening…
LA. It’s waiting to be invented. It’s to be made up.” –GV

Vince said...

Visiting with Gore in Ravello in 2001 when the US got enganged in Afghanistan. History would prove him correct about the futility of this …
"The four most beautiful words in the English language: I told you so" ~Gore

Friderick said...

The friend of whom it is difficult to write in the past tense carries away with him a part of our youth. As far as I am concerned, I still think of him in those far-off years, and his gaiety is so vivid in my mind that, to some extent, it relieves my present sadness. I have always been awkward at putting flowers on graves, because I believe that those we once loved are now elsewhere.
I know that we all go at our appointed time, but for him it was perhaps the right moment to leave an age which hardly cares anymore for the things he loved, whos irreplacable value he was one of the last to understand.

Ms. Edna (squared) said...

Thank you Friderick,
no doubt he most resembled a man of that period he loved so much, the 18th century, whose sensitivity, ready wit and distaste for boredom he shared.

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