Category Archives: Literature

R.I.P. Gore Vidal

I was saddened to hear that Gore Vidal passed away earlier this week at the age of 86. There’s a nice obituary by Hillel Italie over at HuffPo.

I spent a pleasant afternoon drinking vodka with Gore Vidal and friends (both his and mine) at a restaurant in Ravello high above Italy’s Amalfi Cost back in 1993.

I was doing a placement at the nearby University of Salerno as part of my Master’s degree in Communication in Computing, and was staying in Vietri sur Mare a little further down the Amalfi Coast with Katie, my girlfriend of the time.

My friend and fellow MA CiC classmate George Woodcock — a big fan of Vidal’s — was visiting with his two young sons for a few days, and, after recognizing Vidal, introduced himself to pay his compliments. Vidal and his party were most hospitable, and invited us all to join them for some postprandial refreshments.

I wasn’t at all familiar with Vidal’s literary work at that point (and in fact had always struggled not to confuse him with Vidal Sassoon, the British hair stylist who coincidentally also died recently in Los Angeles), but he was most charming and entertaining despite my ignorance, and showed a warm and seemingly genuine interest in our academic pursuits.

I have since read and enjoyed a number of his books, both fiction and non-fiction. His “Narratives of Empire” series of historical novels are an excellent way for an immigrant such as myself to become more familiar with American history, while his essays on American imperialism are damning indictments that are still highly pertinent today.

Here’s a selection of links to some of my favourite Gore Vidal works:

An Evening with Gore Vidal

I just came back from listening to Gore Vidal, at an event organised by The Nation Institute at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. It was a large auditorium, and it was sold out. Unfortunately either the acoustics or the public address system were lousy, so I could only make out about half of what he said, but that half was very good; sage & witty, without trivialising just how dire the present state of the union is. I won’t try to summarise his thesis, as it’s pretty much encapsulated in his two most recent books, both of which I highly recommend:

(For those seeking more instant gratification, check out this short op-ed piece, Blood for Oil, available online).

I also spoke briefly with the editor of The Nation, Katrina Vanden Heuvel; perhaps impolitely in retrospect, I failed to commend her on her opening remarks and merely asked her to give Gore Vidal a copy of a photograph I took when some friends & I met him briefly in Ravello, Italy in 1993.

The Intolerableness of All Earthly Effort

Here is my quote for the day, which I came across while reading Moby Dick on the subway on my way to work this morning:

“that one most perilous and long voyage ended, only begins a second; and a second ended, only begins a third, and so on, for ever and for aye. Such is the endlessness, yea, the intolerableness of all earthly effort.”