Tuesday, August 21, 2012
What Lies Beneath: Gore Vidal, 1925-2012
Gore Vidal passed away recently.
It's been a bad time for the entertainment and arts industries
all the way around, considering losses.
But, Vidal had a long, prosperous, and effective life
and career, and that's the best thing you can
say when someone has ceased breath.
If you were not aware, Vidal was a longtime,
preeminent writer, contrarian, essayist,
and (in a fashion,) activist.
His first novel was published in 1946, when
Gore was only 20 years old, and in some capacity
or another he continued to be prominent and
vocal ever since.
His third novel, "The City and the Pillar," was one
that revolutionized the public idea of homosexuality, set off
a firestorm of controversy, and cemented Vidal in
the public mind as two things; a great writer who
did not avoid controversy, and someone who would
never gain public office in his lifetime.
Vidal was one of only a handful, really, of 'openly
gay' writers (given the disproportionately high
number of writers who are gay!) in a time
when writing was still a talent, a calling, an esteemed
profession, a distinguished and noble path.
Back when evidence of one's orientation was
not openly discussed, even in fields such
as theatre, literary circles, and celluloid.
Vidal had a notion of homosexuality that reflected the
times he grew up in, despite his outspokenness
and courage. The one thing I will always recall
is how he articulated the final days of his partner
of 50 years, Howard Austen, in his memoirs
("Point to Point Navigation") where Vidal plainly
states that he kissed Howard on the lips as he lay on
what was to become his deathbed, and this was the first
time he had ever done so.
Fifty years of companionship and love, and even
in the privacy of their home, the two never
gave the most intimate reflection of devotion
This man who crusaded, broke barriers, dared to
speak freely, who told mostly-all....and even he
was still a made man, unable to fully embrace his
This is the nature of what the world does to us;
building cages that we carry around ourselves.
Vidal had a view of homosexuality not as identity,
but based on actions. In ways, I agree with such a fluid,
more easily-promoted view....but I question the
validity of parts of it. It doesn't diminish his impact
to say that this seems a rather disingenuous claim
by someone trying to assert his 'normalcy' a
bit too loudly perhaps. Someone immersed in disconnect.
In the entire world wide web, I could not find one
picture of the two men, partners for some five decades,
together as a couple.
That isn't coincidence.
It's condemnation of a world that has failed to move
forward, and our complicity in those transgressions.