Provocative, outspoken, sometimes eccentric, and invariably interesting, Gore Vidal shuffled off the mortal coil last night in Los Angeles. He was 86.
A member of the American aristocracy and a man who delighted in provoking power, Vidal was, among other things, a brilliant novelist, a scintillating essayist, and a relentless critic of Imperial America, he was, above else, endlessly entertaining.
Here’s his 18 March 1998 appearance at the National Press Club, where his address starts at about the ten minutes mark and ends at the one-hour mark. It’s a devastating and witty critique of the national security state. Note his prescient critique of NATO:
Vidal was regarded by many in the elite as a class traitor, with William F. Buckley Jr. Among his most outspoken critics. Here’s a memorable confrontation between the two from 1968 during the Democratic National Convention:
From his Los Angeles Times obituary:
“Style,” Vidal once said, “is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” By that definition, he was an emperor of style, sophisticated and cantankerous in his prophesies of America’s fate and refusal to let others define him.
Business Insider has a collection of quotes. A couple worth noting:
As the age of television progresses the Reagans will be the rule, not the exception. To be perfect for television is all a President has to be these days.
Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.
More from a compendium posted by The Guardian:
“The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along, paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return”
“We should stop going around babbling about how we’re the greatest democracy on earth, when we’re not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarised republic.”
“There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.”
UPDATE: Mr. Fish has just posted his own graphic tribute to the writer, via his blog Clowncrack, and titled simply “Gore Vidal”: