Gore Vidal, author, essayist, playwright, and political activist, has long been a celebrity on the American scene. Son of a West Point graduate who distinguished himself in the Army and an actress, Vidal attended Philips Exeter before enlisting in the Army during World War II. Returning to the United States, he embarked on a literary career, publishing a novel that caused a furor because of its depiction of homosexuality (The City and the Pillar, 1948) as well as plays (Visit to a Small Planet, 1957; The Best Man, 1960), screenplays and television scripts. From the 1960s onward he concentrated on novels, a number focused on aspects of American history (Burr, 1973; Lincoln, (1984)) and essays. Indeed, he is most respected as an essayist, his work frequently compared with the best. Outspoken and iconoclastic in lifestyle (he has had affairs with both women and men, but settled into a 50+ year partnership with a man) and political views, Vidal, now well into his ninth decade, remains a colorful commentator capable of acute insight and withering invective. Here are a few samples of his wit and wisdom.
A narcissist is someone better looking than you are.
Andy Warhol is the only genius I’ve ever known with an I.Q. of 60.
By the time a man gets to be presidential material, he’s been bought ten times over.
Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.
Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half.
It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.
Litigation takes the place of sex in middle age.
One is sorry one could not have taken both branches of the road. But we were not allotted multiple selves.
Sex is. There is nothing more to be done about it. Sex builds no roads, writes no novels and sex certainly gives no meaning to anything in life but itself.
The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so.
Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.
I never miss a chance to have sex or appear on television.