Saturday October 24, 2015
“Vidal lacks the wound.”
-- Norman Mailer
Based on Leo Robson's book review/essay of Jay Parini's authorized biography, “Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal,” in the latest New Yorker, it's probably more accurate to say Vidal hides the wound. That's not Parini's diagnosis, by the way; that's Robson channeling Anaïs Nin, whom Vidal met in 1945, and who always felt Vidal hid his true emotions in favor of a public pose of world weariness. Indeed, Robson comes to the conclusion—delivered in the first graf—that Vidal's famous bon mots were mostly a form of projection. He was cataloging himself.
Maybe. Robson, at least, makes me feel better for never having gotten into Vidal's novels—whether self-referential (“The City and the Pillar”), historical (“Burr”) or satire (“Myran Breckenridge”). But I still want to go back to the essays. Pre-9/11, of course.
The three saddest words in the English language? “Joyce Carol Oates,” Vidal said.