August 2012 | Nate Pedersen

Gore Vidal Remembered

GoreVidalVanVechten1.jpgOne of the last "men of letters" of the 20th century passed away yesterday.  Gore Vidal (1925 - 2012) died from pneumonia complications at his home in Hollywood Hills, California.  He was 86 years old.

Vidal was perhaps the last member of a dying 20th century literary tradition: the writer as the man about town.  The versatile intellectual composing essays, novels, and plays, guesting on radio and talk shows, and offering witty asides at prominent social functions.  You'd want to include one of these fellows on your dinner invites.  (Or you would if you lived in a townhouse in Manhattan and were the sort of person to host such things.)  There's something distinctly last century about it all.

Who can take Vidal's place?  We'd need someone with an outdated conception of class -- Vidal was very much a proud part of the "American aristocracy."  We'd need someone urbane and witty, someone willing to make bold, politically incorrect comments in public.  Actually, we'd need someone happy to engage in all out feuds.  Vidal frequently took on other writers ("Capote I truly loathed.  The way you might loathe an animal.")  And he was equally comfortable brawling with presidential candidates (RFK and Gore, for example).  I'm not sure he can be readily replaced.

For collectors, Vidal leaves behind a lengthy and scattered legacy.  You'll need to pick up his novels (of which there were 25), his many essays contributed to a variety of publications (particularly the Nation), his five Broadway plays, and his mysteries written under the pseudonym Edgar Box.  Considering the number of plays and dinner parties and socialite events Vidal attended, you'll also want to keep an eye open for ticket stubs and other ephemera.  I'm not sure a Vidal collection could be complete without a witticism scrawled in pencil across a cocktail napkin.

The Guardian put together a nice retrospective of Vidal's life in pictures here.

And for budding collectors, you can purchase a bibliography of his work from Oak Knoll.