Remembering Gore Vidal — ‘Change is the nature of life and its hope’

Gore Vidal: 1925-2012

Gore Vidal: Unlike most Americans who lie all the time, I hate lying. And here I am surrounded with these hills [in Hollywood] full of liars — some very talented.

Melvyn Bragg: What do you mean by lying in that sense? Do you mean telling fictions?

Vidal: Yeah, about themselves, about their beliefs, about their histories. Degrees, from universities — this is piled up lies.

Americans are not interested in the truth about anything. They assume everybody is lying because they go out and lie everyday about the automobile they are trying to sell you…

This is a country of hoax. P.T. Barnum is the god of this republic, which is no longer a republic alas. It is an oligarchy and a rather vicious one.

Bragg: Can I quote a bit from Montaigne — something from Montaigne that you quote and refer to several times in these memoirs [of yours], from his essay on lying —

Vidal: yes, wonderful…

Bragg: “Lying is an accursed vice. It is only our words which bind us together and make us human. If we realized the horror and weight of lying, we would see that it is more worthy of the stake than other crimes.”

Vidal: … and I’ll drop the match [to set aflame the convict].

Yes, it is … — you see this whole American society is based on advertising, which in turn grabbed on to something called television which could just perpetrate lies everywhere into this society and does and did.

So I have lived in a rather troubling time.

Gore Vidal, who died yesterday evening, was interviewed by Melvyn Bragg on the South Bank Show in 2008. The interview lasts 48 minutes and is worth watching from beginning to end — you will never see an interview and portrait of this quality and depth on American television.

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  1. DE Teodoru says

    Having encountered both Buckley and Vital as a young Conservative, I must say IN RETROSPECT that, while both were very issue oriented, the seemingly profound Buckley was far more theatrical and more avaricious in encountering and subduing others, ritualistically establishing a sort of animalistic ranking order with him at the apex. That flaw aside, I must avow both Buckley’s intellectual prowess and philosophic honesty. But I cannot say that his self exposure on the media, socially or personally were totally attempts at the meeting of minds or the transmission of ideas. Indeed, the man was something of a pompous ass and only once you got over his unprovoked demand for submission did you recognize his great gift, his honesty and legitimacy. Vidal, on the other hand– having faced him as a young Conservative diametrically opposed to most of his views– never manifested that theatrical air of superiority he exhibited on TV. He was patient, deliberate, pedagogic and quite kind. He never punished you for disagreeing, he seemed so accepting that one regretted having to disagree with him. But then, I was raised in the European fashion where your elders never suffered your exuberant youth gladly.

    The real point is that upon hearing of Vidal’s death I came to rethink how we so often sided with Buckley in outrage over Vidal’s explosive interactions with him though we all knew of Buckley’s need to establish his top dog status through a somewhat derisive fashion from the git-go. And why did we pardon Buckley’s effete professorial condescension (in contrast to the gentle intellect of his brother the senator) while condemning Vidal? Simply because Vidal was a “queer” and no queer could really enter debate for any reason other than to flash. Well, if you live long enough you invariably come to very much regret the prejudices of your youth. Reviewing my encounters with both I feel compelled to right my wrong and avow that Vidal was a genuine intellect who engaged you only because he believed in meaningful dialogue and never thought himself so high as do disregard your mind and reason. Let it be his epitaph that he tolerated the intolerance imposed on him for the sake of educating. I hope that the memory of Vidal’s and Buckley’s engaging and activating of the very youth (right&left) into whose hands he thought the future would invariably pass becomes their legacy. Neither the theatrics nor the rage both Vidal and Buckley exhibited should take away from the way both– in Socratic and Aristotelian style, respectively– sought to expand the mind of we youths in those heady days days of meaningful dialogue. Alas, as science expands to the notion that almost anything is possible, letters retreat to a sort of Medieval dark Ages of “this is it!” So let us all look back into the memory of both– especially Vidal– in a perspective free of current prejudices that impede recognition of the example they offer of a time when intellect really meant learned.

  2. Thank you Paul for posting this wonderful and admirable interview of a great man. He will ‘live’ on through his works and thought.

  3. Alfredo Giannantonio says

    Thanks very much for posting this Vidal video — it is excellent. Best, A. Giannantonio, Parma (Italy), 05-08-2012