Gore Vidal

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Don’t ever make the mistake with people like me thinking we are looking for heroes. There aren’t any and if there were, they would be killed immediately. I’m never surprised by bad behaviour. I expect it.
A narcissist is someone better looking than you are.

Gore Vidal (3 October 192531 July 2012) was an American author.

Quotes[edit]

Never pass up a chance to have sex or appear on television.
Congress no longer declares war or makes budgets. So that's the end of the constitution as a working machine.
Everybody likes a bit of gossip to some point, as long as it’s gossip with some point to it. That’s why I like history. History is nothing but gossip about the past, with the hope that it might be true.
I am at heart a propagandist, a tremendous hater, a tiresome nag, complacently positive that there is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.
Well, the Constitution has not yet been pregnant.
  • A narcissist is someone better looking than you are.
    • Quoted in "Vidal: 'I'm at the Top of a Very Tiny Heap,'" profile by Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times (12 March 1981), Late City Final Edition, Section C, Page 17, Column 1
  • A current pejorative adjective is narcissistic. Generally, a narcissist is anyone better looking than you are, but lately the adjective is often applied to those “liberals” who prefer to improve the lives of others rather than exploit them. Apparently, a concern for others is self-love at its least attractive, while greed is now a sign of the highest altruism. But then to reverse, periodically, the meanings of words is a very small price to pay for our vast freedom not only to conform but to consume.
    • "Growing Up With Gore Vidal," Screening History (1994), p. 24
  • Never pass up a chance to have sex or appear on television.
    • Quoted by Bob Chieger, Was It Good For You, Too? (1983)
  • The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved — Judaism, Christianity, Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal — God is the Omnipotent Father — hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates. The sky-god is a jealous god, of course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is in place not for just one tribe but for all creation. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good. Ultimately, totalitarianism is the only sort of politics that can truly serve the sky-god's purpose.
  • Congress no longer declares war or makes budgets. So that's the end of the constitution as a working machine.
    • "America First? America Last? America at Last?," Lowell Lecture, Harvard University (20 April 1992)
  • 'Liberal' comes from the Latin liberalis, which means pertaining to a free man. In politics, to be liberal is to want to extend democracy through change and reform. One can see why the word had to be erased from our political lexicon.
    • "America First? America Last? America at Last?," Lowell Lecture, Harvard University (20 April 1992)
  • At least when the Emperor Justinian, a sky-god man, decided to outlaw sodomy, he had to come up with a good practical reason, which he did. It is well known, Justinian declared, that buggery is a principal cause of earthquakes, and so must be prohibited. But our sky-godders, always eager to hate, still quote Leviticus, as if that looney text had anything useful to say about anything except, perhaps, the inadvisability of eating shellfish in the Jerusalem area.
    • "America First? America Last? America at Last?," Lowell Lecture, Harvard University (20 April 1992)
  • We're supposed to procreate and society, god knows, is ferocious on the subject. Heterosexuality is considered such a great and natural good that you have to execute people and put them in prison if they don't practice this glorious act.
    • "American psyche", extract from interview with Anthony Clare on BBC Radio 4, "In the Psychiatrist's Chair"; published in The Independent (8 October 2000)
  • We should stop going around babbling about how we're the greatest democracy on earth, when we're not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarised republic. The founding fathers hated two things, one was monarchy and the other was democracy, they gave us a constitution that saw to it we will have neither. I don't know how wise they were.
  • Apparently, "conspiracy stuff" is now shorthand for unspeakable truth.
    • "The Enemy Within," The Observer (27 October 2002)
  • Happily for the busy lunatics who rule over us, we are permanently the United States of Amnesia. We learn nothing because we remember nothing.
    • "The State of the Union," The Nation (13 September 2004)
  • We have ceased to be a nation under law but instead a homeland where the withered Bill of Rights, like a dead trumpet vine, clings to our pseudo-Roman columns.
    • "The State of the Union," The Nation (13 September 2004)
  • Lennon was somebody who was a born enemy of those who govern the United States. He was everything they hated. So I just say that he represented life, and is admirable; and Mr. Nixon and Mr. Bush represent death, and that is a bad thing.
  • Private lives should be no business of the State. The State is bad enough as it is. It cannot educate or medicate or feed the people; it cannot do anything but kill the people. No State like that do we want prying into our private lives.
  • Everybody likes a bit of gossip to some point, as long as it’s gossip with some point to it. That’s why I like history. History is nothing but gossip about the past, with the hope that it might be true.
    • Quoted in Gert Jonkers, "Gore Vidal, the Fantastic Man," Butt, No. 20 (7 April 2007)
  • We must always remember that the police are recruited from the criminal classes.
  • Don’t ever make the mistake with people like me thinking we are looking for heroes. There aren’t any and if there were, they would be killed immediately. I’m never surprised by bad behaviour. I expect it.
  • As the age of television progresses the Reagans will be the rule, not the exception. To be perfect for television is all a President has to be these days.
  • The hatred Americans have for their own government is pathological, if understandable. At one level it is simply thwarted greed: since our religion is making a buck, giving a part of that buck to any government is an act against nature.

Julian (1964)[edit]

  • One can never rely on the great keeping one's letters; and should those letters vanish, one is apt to be remembered only as the mysterious half of a dialogue to be reconstructed in the vaguest way from the surviving (and sometimes lesser!) half of the exchange.
    • Chapter 1, Libanius to Priscus, Antioch March 380
  • Books always cost more is those cities where they are least read!
    • Chapter 1, Libanius to Priscus, Antioch March 380
  • How marvelous books are, crossing worlds and centuries, defeating ignorance and, finally, cruel time itself.
    • Chapter 1, Libanius to Priscus, Antioch March 380
  • ...for ferocity there is nothing on Earth equal a Christian bishop hunting "heresy", as they call any opinion contrary to their own.
    • Chapter 1, Priscus to Libanius, Athens March 380
  • The folly of the clever is always more than that of the dull
    • Chapter 1, Libanius to Priscus, Antioch April 380
  • In a good cause hypocrisy becomes a virtue.
    • Chapter 1, Priscus to Libanius, Antioch June 380

1970s[edit]

  • Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.
    • Quoted in The Sunday Times Magazine, London (16 September 1973)
  • Envy is the central fact of American life.
    • "Gore Vidal," interview by Gerald Clarke (1974), The Paris Review Interviews: Writers at Work, 5th series (1981)
  • First coffee, then a bowel movement. Then the Muse joins me.
    • "Gore Vidal," interview by Gerald Clarke (1974), The Paris Review Interviews: Writers at Work, 5th series (1981)
  • It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.
    • Quoted by Gerard Irvine, "Antipanegyric for Tom Driberg," [memorial service for Driberg] (8 December 1976)
  • I can understand companionship. I can understand bought sex in the afternoon, but I cannot understand the love affair.
    • Quoted in profile by Martin Amis, "Mr. Vidal: Unpatriotic Gore" (1977) in The Moronic Inferno (1987)
  • As one gets older, litigation replaces sex.
    • Quoted in profile by Martin Amis, "Mr. Vidal: Unpatriotic Gore" (1977) in The Moronic Inferno (1987)

Homage to Daniel Shays : Collected Essays (1972)[edit]

The theater needs continual reminders that there is nothing more debasing than the work of those who do well what is not worth doing at all.
Random House/Vintage, 1973, ISBN 0-394-71950-6
  • I am at heart a propagandist, a tremendous hater, a tiresome nag, complacently positive that there is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.
    • "Writing Plays for Television" in 'New World Writing, #10 (1956)
  • The theater needs continual reminders that there is nothing more debasing than the work of those who do well what is not worth doing at all.
    • "Love Love Love," Partisan Review (Spring 1959)
  • At any given moment, public opinion is a chaos of superstition, misinformation, and prejudice.
    • "Sex and the Law," Partisan Review (Summer 1965)
  • The more money an American accumulates the less interesting he himself becomes.
    • "H. Hughes," The New York Review of Books (20 April 1972)

Matters of Fact and Fiction : Essays 1973 - 1976 (1978)[edit]

  • In any case, rather like priests who have forgotten the meaning of the prayers they chant, we shall go on for quite a long time talking of books and writing books, pretending all the while not to notice that the church is empty and the parishioners have gone elsewhere to attend other gods, perhaps in silence or with new words.
    • "French Letters: Theories of the New Novel" (1967)
  • That peculiarly American religion, President-worship.
  • The period of Prohibition — called the noble experiment — brought on the greatest breakdown of law and order the United States has known until today. I think there is a lesson here. Do not regulate the private morals of people. Do not tell them what they can take or not take. Because if you do, they will become angry and antisocial and they will get what they want from criminals who are able to work in perfect freedom because they have paid off the police.
    • "The State of the Union" (1975)
  • The United States was founded by the brightest people in the country — and we haven't seen them since.
    • "The State of the Union" (1975)
  • Big oil, big steel, big agriculture avoid the open marketplace. Big corporations fix prices among themselves and thus drive out of business the small entrepreneur. Also, in their conglomerate form, the huge corporations have begun to challenge the very legitimacy of the state.
    • "The State of the Union" (1978)
  • The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along, paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return ...
    • p. 280

1980s[edit]

The Second American Revolution (1983)[edit]

  • It is reasonable to assume that, by and large, what is not read now will not be read, ever. It is also reasonable to assume that practically nothing that is read now will be read later. Finally, it is not too farfetched to imagine a future in which novels are not read at all.
  • In any case, write what you know will always be excellent advice to those who ought not to write at all.
    • "Thomas Love Peacock: The Novel of Ideas" (1980)
  • Television is a great leveler. You always end up sounding like the people who ask the questions.
    • "Sex Is Politics" (1979)
  • Religions are manipulated in order to serve those who govern society and not the other way around.
    • "Sex Is Politics" (1979)
  • Actually, there is no such thing as a homosexual person, any more than there is such a thing as a heterosexual person. The words are adjectives describing sexual acts, not people. The sexual acts are entirely normal; if they were not, no one would perform them.
    • "Sex Is Politics" (1979)
  • The reason no one has yet been able to come up with a good word to describe the homosexualist (sometimes known as gay, fag, queer, etc.) is because he does not exist. The human race is divided into male and female. Many human beings enjoy sexual relations with their own sex, many don't; many respond to both. This plurality is the fact of our nature and not worth fretting about.
    • "Sex Is Politics" (1979)

At Home (1988)[edit]

The average "educated" American has been made to believe that, somehow, the United States must lead the world even though hardly anyone has any information at all about those countries we are meant to lead. Worse, we have very little information about our own country and its past...
  • My father had a deep and lifelong contempt for politicians in general ("They tell lies," he used to say with wonder, "even when they don't have to").
    • "On Flying" (1985)
  • The last best hope on earth, two trillion dollars in debt, is spinning out of control, and all we can do is stare at a flickering cathode-ray tube as Ollie "answers" questions on TV while the press, resolutely irrelevant as ever, asks politicians if they have committed adultery. From V-J Day 1945 to this has been, my fellow countrymen, a perfect nightmare.
  • In a nation that has developed to a high art advertising, the creator who refuses to advertise himself is immediately suspected of having no product worth selling.
  • The average "educated" American has been made to believe that, somehow, the United States must lead the world even though hardly anyone has any information at all about those countries we are meant to lead. Worse, we have very little information about our own country and its past. That is why it is not really possible to compare a writer like Howells with any living American writer because Howells thought that it was a good thing to know as much as possible about his own country as well as other countries while our writers today, in common with the presidents and paint manufacturers, live in a present without past among signs whose meanings are uninterpretable.
    • "William Dean Howells" (1983)
  • I suspect that one of the reasons we create fiction is to make sex exciting.
  • Class is the most difficult subject for American writers to deal with as it is the most difficult for the English to avoid.
  • I regard monotheism as the greatest disaster ever to befall the human race. I see no good in Judaism, Christianity, or Islam — good people, yes, but any religion based on a single... well, frenzied and virulent god, is not as useful to the human race as, say, Confucianism, which is not a religion but an ethical and educational system that has worked pretty well for twenty-five hundred years. So you see I am ecumenical in my dislike for the Book. But like it or not, the Book is there; and because of it people die; and the world is in danger.
    • Appendix

1990s[edit]

A View from the Diner's Club (1991)[edit]

  • Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.
    • "Gods and Greens" (1989)
  • Think of the earth as a living organism that is being attacked by billions of bacteria whose numbers double every forty years. Either the host dies, or the virus dies, or both die.
    • "Gods and Greens" (1989)
  • The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western World. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity — much less dissent.
    • "Cue the Green God, Ted" (1991).

Screening History (1992)[edit]

Harvard University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-674-79587-3
  • To speak today of a famous novelist is like speaking of a famous cabinetmaker or speedboat designer. Adjective is inappropriate to noun.
    • Ch. 1: The Prince and the Pauper, pp.2-3
  • Half the American people never read a newspaper. Half never vote for President — the same half?
    • Ch. 1: The Prince and the Pauper, p. 5
    • Sometimes quoted as: Half of the American people never read a newspaper. Half never voted for president. One hopes it is the same half.
  • Lonely children often have imaginary playmates but I was never lonely; rather, I was solitary, and wanted no company at all other than books and movies, and my own imagination.
    • Ch. 1: The Prince and the Pauper, p. 23
  • Apparently, a concern for others is self-love at its least attractive, while greed is now a sign of the higher altruism. But then to reverse, periodically, the meanings of words is a very small price to pay for the freedom not only to conform but to consume.
    • Ch. 1: The Prince and the Pauper, p. 24
  • I shared, naturally, in that hatred of organized labor which has been the one political constant in my lifetime, culminating in Ronald Reagan's most popular gesture, the smashing of the air-controllers' union. No alternative view of organized labor has ever come to us through the popular media. If labor leaders were not crooks like Jimmy Hoffa, they were in the pay of Moscow.
    • Ch. 2: Fire Over England, p. 34
  • It is notable how little empathy is cultivated or valued in our society. I put this down to our traditional racism and obsessive sectarianism. Even so, one would think that we would be encouraged to project ourselves into the character of someone of a different race or class, if only to be able to control him. But no effort is made.
    • Ch. 2: Fire Over England, p. 49
  • By and large, serious fiction was the work of victims who portrayed victims for an audience of victims who, it was oddly assumed, would want to see their lives realistically portrayed.
    • Ch. 3: Lincoln, p. 78

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire (1992)[edit]

  • Every four years the naive half who vote are encouraged to believe that if we can elect a really nice man or woman President everything will be all right. But it won't be. Any individual who is able to raise $25 million to be considered presidential is not going to be much use to the people at large. He will represent oil, or aerospace, or banking, or whatever moneyed entities are paying for him. Certainly he will never represent the people of the country, and they know it. Hence, the sense of despair throughout the land as incomes fall, businesses fail and there is no redress.
  • As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests.

United States - Essays 1952-1992 (1992)[edit]

  • Must one have a heart of stone to read The Ballad of Reading Gaol without laughing? (In life, practically no one ever gets to kill the thing he hates, much less loves.) And did not De Profundis plumb for all time the shallows of the most reported love affair of the past hundred years, rivalling even that of Wallis and David, its every nuance (O Bosie!) known to all, while trembling rosy lips yet form, over and over again, those doom-laden syllables The Cadogan Hotel? Oscar Wilde. Yet again. Why?
  • ...American society, literary or lay, tends to be humorless. What other culture could have produced someone like Hemingway and not seen the joke?
  • We do not, of course, write literary criticism at all now. Academe has won the battle in which Wilson fought so fiercely on the other side. Ambitious English teachers now invent systems that have nothing to do with literature or life but everything to do with those games that must be played in order for them to rise in the academic bureaucracy. Their works are empty indeed. But then, their works are not meant to be full. They are to be taught, not read. The long dialogue has broken down. Fortunately, as Flaubert pointed out, the worst thing about the present is the future. One day there will be no... But I have been asked not to give the game away. Meanwhile, I shall drop a single hint: Only construct!
    • "Edmund Wilson: This Critic and This Gin and These Shoes", closing lines
  • After four centuries, Montaigne's curious genius still has that effect on his readers and, time and again, one finds in his self-portrait one's own most brilliant aperçus (the ones that somehow we forgot to write down and so forgot) restored to us in his essays—attempts—to assay—value—himself in his own time as well as, if he was on the subject, all time, if there is such a thing.
  • World events are the work of individuals whose motives are often frivolous, even casual.
    • "The Twelve Caesars"
  • The late Mr. [Carl] Sandburg was a public performer of the first rank ("Ker-oh-seen!" he crooned in one of the first TV pitches for the jet-engine — ole banjo on his knee, white hair mussed by the jet-stream), a poet of the second rank (who can ever forget that feline-footed fog?) and a biographer of awesome badness.
    • "First Note on Abraham Lincoln"
  • In fact, the French - who read and theorise the most - became so addicted to political experiment that in the two centuries since our own rather drab revolution they have exuberantly produced one Directory, one Consulate, two empires, three restorations of the monarchy, and five republics. That's what happens when you take writing too seriously.
    • "Lincoln and the Priests of Academe"
  • Professor Richard N. Current fusses, not irrelevantly, about the propriety of fictionalising actual political figures. I also fuss about this. But he has fallen prey to the scholar-squirrel's delusion that there is a final Truth revealed only to the tenured few in their footnote maze; in this he is simply naïve.
    • "Lincoln and the Priests of Academe"
  • Current is also outraged by a reference to Lincoln's bowels, whose 'frequency,' he tells us, 'cannot be documented.' But, of course, they can. 'Truth-teller' Herndon tells us that Lincoln was chronically constipated and depended on a laxative called bluemass. Since saints do not have bowels, Current finds all this sacrilegious; hence 'wrong.'
    • "Lincoln and the Priests of Academe"
  • What is going on here is a deliberate revision by Current not only of Lincoln but of himself in order to serve the saint in the 1980s as opposed to the saint at earlier times when black were still colored, having only just stopped being Negroes. In colored and Negro days the saint might have wanted them out of the country, as he did. But in the age of Martin Luther King even the most covertly racist of school boards must agree that a saint like Abraham Lincoln could never have wanted a single black person to leave freedom’s land much less bravery’s home. So all the hagiographers are redoing their plaster images and anyone who draws attention to the discrepancy between their own past crudities and their current falsities is a very bad person indeed, and not a scholar, and probably a communist as well.
    • "Lincoln and the Priests of Academe"
  • Basler finds my Lincoln the 'phoniest historical novel I have ever had the pleasure of reading.'... Also, 'more than half the book could never have happened as told.' Unfortunately, he doesn't say which half. If I knew, we could then cut it free from the phony half and publish the result as Basler's Vidal's Lincoln.
    • "Lincoln and the Priests of Academe"
  • Nothing that Shakespeare ever invented was to equal Lincoln's invention of himself and, in the process, us.
    • "Lincoln and the Priests of Academe"

The City and the Pillar and Seven Early Stories (1995)[edit]

  • I have begun writing what I have said I'd never write, a memoir ("I am not my own subject," I used to say with icy superiority).

Palimpsest : A Memoir (1995)[edit]

Viking/Penguin, 1996, ISBN 0-14-026089-7
  • Anais Nin gave me my most original, or so I thought, creation.

    As I read Incest, I realized that something which I had always taken to be unique, the voice of Myra Breckinridge, was actually that of Anaïs in all the flowing megalomania of the diaries. Of course, I had not read the diaries then, but even so, if only for that one thundering voice, I am forever in her debt.

    • Ch. 7: "Today My Nerves Are Shattered. But I Am Indomitable!," pp. 107-108
  • I used to be able to summon up scenes at will, but now aging memory is so busy weeding its own garden that, promiscuously, it pulls up roses as well as crabgrass.
    • Ch. 12: The Guest of the Blue Nuns, p. 162
  • Celebrities are invariably celebrity-mad, just as liars always believe liars.
    • Ch. 18: To Do Well What Should Not Be Done at All, p. 311

2000s[edit]

What I've Learned (2008)[edit]

People in my situation get to read about themselves whether they want to or not. It's generally wrong. Or oversimplified — which is sometimes useful.
Interview by Mike Sager, Esquire, (June 2008), p. 132
  • There was more of a flow to my output of writing in the past, certainly. Having no contemporaries left means you cannot say, "Well, so-and-so will like this," which you do when you're younger. You realize there is no so-and-so anymore. You are your own so-and-so. There is a bleak side to it.
  • You hear all this whining going on, "Where are our great writers?" The thing I might feel doleful about is: Where are the readers?
  • Everything's wrong on Wikipedia.
  • Some of my father's fellow West Pointers once asked him why I turned out so well, his secret in raising me. And he said, "I never gave him any advice, and he never asked for any." We agreed on nothing, but we never quarreled once.
  • Nonprofit status is what created the Bible Belt. The tax code brought religion back to this country.
  • Patriotism is as sickening today as it has ever been. I was watching the news before you came and there was a lot of coverage of Kosovo and the problems there. They showed footage of people burning an American flag. And the newscaster got all broken up and teary-eyed. He says, "I guess [sob] I just feel something here, folks, when I see the American flag being burned." And I said, You fucking asshole. Whatever happened to the news?
  • People in my situation get to read about themselves whether they want to or not. It's generally wrong. Or oversimplified — which is sometimes useful.
  • We’re the most captive nation of slaves that ever came along. The moral timidity of the average American is quite noticeable. Everybody’s afraid to be thought in any way different from everyone else.

Gore Vidal's America (2009)[edit]

Seven part interview by Paul Jay, The Real News, (5 July 2009)
  • You cannot get through the density of the propaganda with which the American people, through the dreaded media, have been filled and the horrible public educational system we have for the average person. It's just grotesque.
  • Well, it's been the monopolizing of great wealth, which tends to happen in basically unjust societies and undemocratic societies. We have plenty of would-be democrats, would-be liberals, and would-be progressives. But how do you organize? The Democratic Party is a machine to get votes for its people, none of who should probably be elected to the high offices of state. That's all. The Republican Party is fundamentally crooked and might well be outlawed one of these days. Le Pen, you know, in France, who is an out-and-out fascist, the French have managed in some clever way to contain him. I mean, he's always running for president; his votes never seem to show up. I don't know how they do it, but we've got to do that with the Republican base, the religious right. We don't want them running the country. Nobody does. Certainly not the founding fathers. And I think we have to ride herd on them and make sure they do not seize the state.
  • Well, you have to work out what it is. They are a little splinter. They can't summon many voters at any given time. They are a minority of a minority of a minority. They have everybody buffaloed because the great corporations like them and pay money to their candidates for sheriff and senator. And they're playing big-time politics. Yes, indeed. But the average person doesn't like them. You know, any time I want to get applause — and I lecture across America in state after state after state — when I fear things are getting a little low, I always say, “And another thing: Let us tax all the religions,” I bring down the goddamn house with that. And any politician would if he had sense enough to do it. The people don't like their tax exemption.
  • Well, remember, all that area from which the Gore family comes was solid Democrat and progressive under Roosevelt for several decades. So they just didn't become Republicans because they all wanted to be bankers. They became it because they didn't like black people, and they thought the Democrats were pushing integration too fast. And that's how the great split came about, to the shame of the whole country.
  • You know, I've been around the ruling class all my life, and I've been quite aware of their total contempt for the people of the country.
  • You think of the Republican Party as a party, like the British Conservative Party - well it isn't! I don't say that the British Conservative Party is much better, I'm only saying the Republican Party is a mindset. They love war! They love money! They're out to hang on through all the connections that they have, through their various operatives.

"Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia" (2013)[edit]

A documentary film
  • The founding fathers were not interested in democracy, in fact, in a country with 3 1/4 million people, which is about what we were at the time of the separation from England, only 700,000 people could vote—white males of property. So it's never been terribly democratic. ...and they put together a constitution which would protect property for all time. No nonsense about democracy!
  • For reasons that I leave to a higher psychiatry, Jr. wanted a war in Iraq. ...Jr. is really pretty vague, you know. He just wanted to go... "Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! We gotta stand tall, ya know? We can't cut and run, yeah, ya know what I mean." We've had bad presidents in the past, but we've never had a G-- D--d fool!
  • It was ready-made for them to call an emergency and pretend it was war-time, you know, the war on terrorism is a metaphor, and terrorism is an abstract noun. It's like a "war on dandruff." There's no such thing, you know. It isn't war, it's just a slogan. But using the slogan they got through the U.S.A. Patriot Act, which removes many of our liberties. Nobody made a sound when we lost Habeus Corpus—due process of law—and suddenly Bush managed to get rid of it. Where was a voice on television, aside from mine, that spoke out against this? Where were all those noble jurists, those great lawyers, those lovers of liberty, where the hell were they? They were nowhere!
  • Now we have a totalitarian government. And the totalitarian government wants to watch everybody, total surveillance of everyone. They listen to the telephone conversations, they look at your credit cards, they look where you travel. We are totally policed. This is contrary to everything in our Constitution.
  • I complain about the United States not being Athens. I certainly say we are a very good Roman republic, and the lies are based upon the most advanced techniques of advertising, which is the only art form my country has ever created—the television commercial—and we sell soap and presidents in the same fashion. Once a country is habituated to liars, it takes generations to bring the truth back.
  • Those who seem to think that the Bush administration had something to do with 9-11... I can prove that they didn't. They are totally incompetent! 9-11 was a brilliantly executed strike on the United States. I can't imagine anybody... I can't even imagine... Can you imagine Cheny, mumbling around, orchestrating something like that?
  • Americans are farcical when it comes to force majeure and money!
    Two things that they worship.
    You can't expect a democracy from a society like this.


Misattributed[edit]

  • Never have children, only grandchildren.
    • This was said by Vidal's maternal grandfather, Thomas Pryor Gore, as recalled by Vidal: "My grandfather, Senator Gore ('I never give advice') was suddenly Polonius; he also changed his usual line from 'Never have children, only grandchildren' to 'Be not fruitful, do not multiply.' " [Palimpsest, ch. 3: The Desire and the Successful Pursuit of the Whole]

Quotes about Vidal[edit]

  • Vidal gives the impression of believing that the entire heterosexual edifice -- registry offices, Romeo and Juliet, the disposable diaper -- is just a sorry story of self-hypnosis and mass hysteria: a hoax, a racket, or sheer propaganda.
    • Martin Amis, review of Pamlimpsest, in The Sunday Times, October 1995, in The War Against Cliche (2001)
  • He was impressed by the young people who came to hear him, far less impressed by reviewers of his latest novel who seemed to have no historical education and therefore no context in which to place his fiction. For a writer steeped in Herodotus and Plotinus to be reviewed by those who have read neither must be galling.
    Gore is at heart an 18th-century man who belongs among those framers of the American Constitution — men who knew their Greek and Roman history and philosophy, and took the long, historical view of governments. His living on a promontory surrounded by ancient artefacts is indeed just what an 18th-century philosopher would do. He lives in splendid isolation — aiming fiery feuilletons at a dumb and dumber world.
    Gore Vidal understands what America might be if it didn't betray its own ideals — the ideals we gave the world and then renounced in favour of corporate oligarchy and the perpetual war machine.
    When we said goodbye after dinner and headed back to the sailboat we had anchored on the coast, I was inspired. Gore Vidal is everything a writer should be: a voice for sanity in a mad world.
  • An avowed atheist, Vidal insists that his image as an acid-tongued “gentleman bitch" is no pose: “I'm exactly as I appear. There is no warm loveable person inside. Beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water."
    • Current Biography Yearbook, Vol. 44 (1983), edited by Charles Moritz, p. 427

External links[edit]

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