I thought it would be good to take a look at one of the other American writers I said might have a shot at the Nobel. I would have nominated them at least, and I do feel they have to reach out and give the American literary establishment something in the near future. After awarding many American writers early on, in the last 35 years its been Saul Bellow, and Toni Morrison.
I said Gore Vidal or Edward Albee, (see his thread below), both had a shot to win it because they have a supremely impressive legacy, are both getting very old, and would both be unexpected winners, which is I think something the Committee likes. They don't want to seem to go to big name predictable people like Phillip Roth.
Gore Vidal, though mostly known for his essays, (more on them later), is also a prominent novelist. He, in my opinion, sadly choose to dedicate most of his career to Americana historical novels and satires.
His third published book was The City and The Pillar. It got him blacklisted from all national media outlets for 6 years. Why? It dealt with homosexuality frankly. It displayed it as a natural impulse and at the novel's end the protagonist wasn't killed, or morally chastised, or learns the error of his ways. It was scandalous. Considered to be one of the major works of gay literature in 1930s-1950s, it was the first thing to really make a splash for Vidal. It is also, in my opinion, a very good book. A doomed sort of love story. I think Vidal is a lot more sensitive to criticism than he lets on, and this and various other things might be what has made so supremely bitter and acerbic over the years.
His first book to break out as a reviewed and well received work afterwords, was Julian, a historical novel on Julian the Apostate. My favorite historical novel. I'm not normally a fan of the genre, but this was a great book. Vidal again showed his chops as a writer of fiction.
The only other book of his I've read is Live From Golgotha. While hilarious it quickly turns tedious as the jokes become repetitious. A satire and not the best of his works.
Myra Breckridge is another major book of his, quite controversial in its time because of its frank, detailed depictions of sex and its transgender main character. I've not read it yet, but I intend to sometime.
Aside from those Vidal has written a variety of historical novels, and some satires. He's been called by some critics to be the finest historical novelist in America's history. He was also involved in Hollywood for several years, writing various screenplays, including a final doctoring of Ben Hur for which he was left uncredited. He put out a couple of plays as well.
But now we come to the main part of his legacy; his essays. I've read his Collected Essays, and it is an enlightening piece. He is so great that even in places where you intensely disagree with him and dislike his tone, you find yourself beaten into submission by the brutal force of his arguments. I've never read someone as concise, clear, and intelligent as Vidal. As one critic put it, 'even his blind spots are illuminating'. Gore Vidal is one of the major essayists of the 20th Century, with a pantheon of works. He has discussed everything from Post Modernism, to Ronald Reagan and homosexuality.
If you want to look at a member of the American Aristocracy, Vidal is the place to start. He has illuminating writings about his friendship with John F. Kennedy, (his mother's last husband was Jacqueline Kennedy's stepfather) about helping his blind Grandfather, a U.S. Senator from Oklahoma, (who detested his constituents according to Gore), as a young kid. He was related to the Roosevelt's, and talks dismissively about not liking Eleanor, and had a long friendship with Theodore Roosevelt's daughter Alice. His father had a passionate relationship with Amelia Earhart, and his mother had affairs with Clark Gable. It's hard to find someone with more one on one experience with historical American figures in film and politics than Gore Vidal. He is the epitome of the rich Yankee family, intimately involved in the highest echelons of American society.
He's not afraid to be offensive or abrasive. Which is most impressive. I admire that courage to be a total jackass on occasion. I love his essay from a few years back entitled, "Rest in Peace in Hell: William Buckley", where, after reading an obituary article that made him look like a bully for an altercation he had with Buckley in the 60s, he rips Buckley's legacy and pisses on his grave, thoroughly pleased to have outlived him. I think it's a great example of his writing:
And here is a general bibliography for those of you interested:I can recall that day in the 1930s when a “news” (sic) magazine appeared in Washington, D.C.; it was called Newsweek: meant to be a counterbalance to Time Magazine’s uncontrollable malice. In due course the two became sadly alike as Vincent Astor morphed into Henry Luce: Was it something in the water? I once asked Henry Luce why he called Time a news magazine when it was simply Uncle Harry’s means of venting his rage (this was 1960 or so) at liberals, and “degenerate art” like the plays of Tennessee Williams—he had no answer. At Newsweek Vincent Astor was far too stupid to answer any such complaint. Now here we are in the Newsweek of 2008, and it’s still lousy. There have been a few decent writers in between that were less nutty than today’s Newsweek hacks.
But why is Newsweek currently lousy? Here’s an example provided by an editor who keeps a sharp eye on their crimes. He sent me their recent obituary of William F. Buckley, a hero to those who feared democracies.Buckley bridled at bullies [we are assured]. But one of the rare times he lost his temper was debating Gore Vidal, who “got under his skin,” says son Chris. When Vidal called Buckley a “crypto-Nazi,” Buckley responded, “Now listen, you queer, you stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered.” But usually his public manners were genteel [I think they mean gentile]. With “Firing Line” guests who seemed nervous or over their heads, Buckley was gentle. Behind the scenes, he could show remarkable kindness. In 1980, a rising conservative star, Congressman Bob Bauman, was soliciting a 16-year-old [male] for oral sex. Bauman had been a gay-basher, and he instantly became a pariah. The next day, knowing what lay ahead for the disgraced congressman, Buckley quietly gave him an envelope containing $10,000. “He was a knightly man,” says Chris.Unknown to them and everyone else who might read that publication, my views on many matters do not conform to the tired hacks who’ve taken over Newsweek, a magazine that has convinced itself that Bobby Kennedy Sr. was a great liberal. They love throwing about misunderstood terms like liberal and conservative that seldom suit their superficial, not to mention malicious, standards. Recently, their words of mourning for the fallen “genteel” paladin were incredible. As my editor friend knew that I seldom read the wilder attacks on me, he deconstructs Newsweek’s obituary of Buckley:
Parenthetically, I should note that, back in 1968, ABC TV had asked me and Buckley to “debate” each other at the Democratic and Republican conventions. Although Buckley was often drunk and out of control, he was always a spontaneous liar on any subject that his dizzy brain might extrude. When we were in Chicago during the Republican convention, the Chicago police decided it would be fun to attack the young co-ed demonstrators in Grant Park, not far from our studio. It was one of the worst displays of police brutality I’ve ever seen, and so I said on air; he liked what the police had done; in no time, the whole country was as shocked as I, but not Buckley. On air he was hissing like a cobra against the young people in Grant Park because, he said, they were egging on the Viet Cong to kill American Marines. They were not, of course. Buckley was a world-class American liar on the far right who would tell any lie he thought he could get away with. Years of ass-kissing famous people in the press and elsewhere had given him, he felt, a sort of license to libelously slander those hated liberals who, from time to time, smoked him out as I did in Chicago, when I defended the young people in Grant Park by denying that they were Nazis and that the only “pro- or crypto-Nazi” I could think of was himself. He sued me and got nowhere. He sued Esquire, in which our words appeared. By then the coming right-wing surge was in view. And so Esquire cravenly agreed to settle with him for a few paragraphs worth of free advertising for his weird little magazine The National Review, hardly the great victory he claimed.
Now, to Newsweek’s obituary of this late dishonorable American in which my editor-friend assures me that his brain-dead son Christopher had a hand: “Buckley bridled at bullies.” And who was the bully in context? Myself. He was also an expert at changing indefensible contexts. Buckley maintained that I supported revolutionaries who favored murdering U.S. Marines. Yet all the talk of Nazis etc. was started by Buckley. There was no lie he would not tell to get back at those who defeated him in debate. The current editors at Newsweek appear to have listened eagerly to his son Christopher, who is guiding them to a benign view of what had been a most hysterical queen (WFB), much admired by a media that takes everyone at his own evaluation of himself as they did with Capote, who told them that he was a great writer like Proust (pronounced Prowst) and the hacks ate it up.
The correct assessment of any reputation today is so far from plausible reality that it might be a good thing if the hacks of a magazine like Newsweek steered clear of characterizing those disliked by the advertisers; hence his creepy son’s depiction of me as a “bully” when I was simply attending to one, and then—o, joy!—Buckley called me a “queer” and actually threatened me with physical violence, so great was his testosterone level. Next, the loyal son, suspecting that the pejorative use of “queer” is politically incorrect in mag-land, Christopher rambles into a story about his father’s kindness to a Mr. Bauman who had lost his seat in Congress after the congressman had been caught while soliciting Oral Sex from a 16-year-old male (note how prurient Newsweek’s prose is, in describing undesirable people). Chris weeps into his computer as he describes how Dad gave the poor sinner of the flesh an envelope containing $10,000 (I bet?) in cash adding, mysteriously, “He was a knightly man”: Who was—the cocksucker recipient of Buckley’s charity? Or his admirer, Mr. Buckley himself?—Bauman was very right wing, it is said. RIP WFB—in hell.
The unique mess that our republic is in can be, in part, attributed to a corrupt press whose roots are in mendacious news (sic) magazines like Time and Newsweek, aided by tabloids that manufacture fictional stories about actual people. This mingling of opinion and fiction has undone a media never devoted to truth. Hence, the ease with which the Republican smear-machine goes into action when they realize that yet again the party’s permanent unpopularity with the American people will cause them defeat unless they smear individually those who question the junk that the media has put into so many heads. Anyone who says “We gotta fight ‘em over there or we’re gonna have to fight ‘em over here.” This absurdity has been pronounced by every Republican seeking high office. The habit of lying is now a national style that started with “news” magazines that was further developed by pathological liars that proved to be “good” Entertainment on TV. But a diet of poison that has done none of us any good.
I speak ex cathedra now, ad urbe et orbe, with a warning that no society so marinated in falsity can long survive in a real world.
Essays and non-fiction
- Rocking the Boat (1963)
- Reflections Upon a Sinking Ship (1969)
- Sex, Death and Money (1969) (paperback compilation)
- Homage to Daniel Shays (1972)
- Matters of Fact and of Fiction (1977)
- Views from a Window Co-Editor (1981)
- The Second American Revolution (1982)
- Armageddon? (1987) (UK only)
- At Home (1988)
- A View From The Diner's Club (1991) (UK only)
- Screening History (1992) ISBN 0-233-98803-3
- Decline and Fall of the American Empire (1992) ISBN 1-878825-00-3
- United States: essays 1952–1992 (1993) ISBN 0-7679-0806-6
- Palimpsest: a memoir (1995) ISBN 0-679-44038-0
- Virgin Islands (1997) (UK only)
- The American Presidency (1998) ISBN 1-878825-15-1
- Sexually Speaking: Collected Sex Writings (1999)
- The Last Empire: essays 1992–2000 (2001) ISBN 0-375-72639-X (there is also a much shorter UK edition)
- Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace or How We Came To Be So Hated, Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002, (2002) ISBN 1-56025-405-X
- Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta, Thunder's Mouth Press, (2002) ISBN 1-56025-502-1
- Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson (2003) ISBN 0-300-10171-6
- Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia (2004) ISBN 1-56025-744-X
- Point to Point Navigation : A Memoir (2006) ISBN 0-385-51721-1
- The Selected Essays of Gore Vidal (2008) ISBN 0-385-52484-6
- Gore Vidal: Snapshots in History's Glare (2009) ISBN 0-810-95049-9
- Visit to a Small Planet (1957) ISBN 0-8222-1211-0
- The Best Man (1960)
- On the March to the Sea (1960–1961, 2004)
- Romulus (adapted from Friedrich D?rrenmatt's 1950 play Romulus der Gro?e) (1962)
- Weekend (1968)
- Drawing Room Comedy (1970)
- An Evening with Richard Nixon (1970) ISBN 0-394-71869-0
- On the March to the Sea (2005)
- Williwaw (1946) ISBN 0-226-85585-6
- In a Yellow Wood (1947)
- The City and the Pillar (1948) ISBN 1-4000-3037-4
- The Season of Comfort (1949) ISBN 0-233-98971-4
- A Search for the King (1950) ISBN 0-345-25455-4
- Dark Green, Bright Red (1950) ISBN 0-233-98913-7 (prophecy of the Guatemala coup d'?tat of 1954, see "In the Lair of the Octopus" Dreaming War)
- The Judgment of Paris (1952) ISBN 0-345-33458-2
- Messiah (1954) ISBN 0-14-118039-0
- A Thirsty Evil (1956) (short stories)
- Julian (1964) ISBN 0-375-72706-X
- Washington, D.C. (1967) ISBN 0-316-90257-8
- Myra Breckinridge (1968) ISBN 1125979488
- Two Sisters (1970) ISBN 0-434-82958-7
- Burr (1973) ISBN 0-375-70873-1
- Myron (1974) ISBN 0-586-04300-4
- 1876 (1976) ISBN 0-375-70872-3
- Kalki (1978) ISBN 0-14-118037-4
- Creation (1981) ISBN 0-349-10475-1
- Duluth (1983) ISBN 0-394-52738-0
- Lincoln (1984) ISBN 0-375-70876-6
- Empire (1987) ISBN 0-375-70874-X
- Hollywood (1990) ISBN 0-375-70875-8
- Live from Golgotha: the Gospel according to Gore Vidal (1992) ISBN 0-14-023119-6
- The Smithsonian Institution (1998) ISBN 0-375-50121-5
- The Golden Age (2000) ISBN 0-375-72481-8
- Clouds and Eclipses: The Collected Short Stories (2006) (short stories, this is the same collection as A Thirsty Evil (1956), with one previously unpublished short story – Clouds and Eclipses – added)
- Climax!: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1954) (TV adaptation)
- The Catered Affair (1956)
- I Accuse! (1958)
- The Scapegoat (1959)
- Ben Hur (1959) (uncredited)
- Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
- The Best Man (1964)
- Is Paris Burning? (1966)
- Last of the Mobile Hot Shots (1970)
- Caligula (1979)
- Dress Gray (1986)
- The Sicilian (1987) (uncredited)
- Billy the Kid (1989)
- Dimenticare Palermo (1989)
 Under pseudonyms