Today’s papers carried the news that Gore Vidal, giant of the US literary scene for over 50 years, has died at the age of 86.
The various obit notices described him as being unkind, scathing and vile towards anyone he happened to dislike (pretty much everybody, then). However, I like to think he was making a plea with this endless spleen; perhaps he really wanted someone to challenge him by pointing out that the population of the US includes millions of people who are intelligent, hard-working and conscientious.
I have read only two of his books, but they made a great impression on me; both were secondhand copies from charity shops, one bought in London, the other in Birmingham. My hardback copy of ‘Julian’ sat on the shelf for nine years before I got round to reading it, and my diaries from the time carry brief references to his work.
Journal Entries: 29 May ’88:
Back in B’ham after spending six weeks working in Oxford. Last week had lovely barbecue in the Isle of Dogs & met all Steve’s friends. Been reading ‘Colour out of Time’ by Michael Shea, ‘2010’ by Arthur C Clarke, ‘Messiah’ by Gore Vidal. Fortnight ago was offered interview by Courtaulds who had already arranged accommodation and dinner for night before.
6 Feb ’89:
Went back to Brum for weekend, lunch with Pam & John on Sunday. Bought a Philip Gibbs novel and ‘Julian’ by Gore Vidal and a Van Vogt and scientific biography. Today bought two Dickens books from kidney shop and at home had Xmas card from Steve Rhead.
5 Aug ’89:
Awful! The bestselling pop record in the UK is a medley of fifties songs over a disco beat. It’s like 1981 all over again!
Wellcome shares rocketing.
Perhaps PSB (the Pet Shop Boys, Messrs Tennant & Lowe) should change their names to Steven Shorter and John Cave.
Will Willy Goddard turn out like Bam-Bam in The Flintstones?
27 Mar ’97 (Maundy Thursday):
On Tuesday, Du Pont takeover of Carrs Paints should be announced.
Last night went to T’ai Chi – learned ‘hands moving like clouds’ in short form.
At work am reading Julian (Gore Vidal) and reciting the Balcony Scene from memory, cos Stewart keeps saying that Shakespeare is overrated. At home reading Iain Sinclair, Whitechapel Scarlet; Jack the Ripper didn’t regard himself as an antiquated Victorian – he was a smart, modern man-about-town.
The Emperor Julian unwittingly saluted his Generals; they went wild because he’d overturned the established order. On the eve of Good Friday Jesus turned servant to His disciples to make the same point.