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William C. Altreuter
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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

What is there left to say about Gore Vidal? Almost certainly he was the last of his kind; probably he never wrote anything that was as good as he was capable of. Of course, I haven't read Williwa
or The City and the Pillar, which are, I suppose the two works upon which he made his literary reputation, and I suppose I should, but as I cast an eye over his oeuvre I find that I am surprised by how much of his work I have read. I like some of it, and was appalled that I spent any time whatsoever on a fair amount. I think the NYTimes is being generous when it says that his American Chronicles were, "scrupulously based on fact". At some point I think he stopped caring about being right, and started caring more about being told he was right. "I told you so" isn't very attractive. "I keep telling you but you refuse to listen," is even less so. His essays were better than his fiction because he could come right out and make his point in his essays, but although I frequently found myself in agreement with his larger points, and nearly always found myself admiring his stylish language, his arguments seemed flawed by an underlying disingenuous quality, and that quality seems to me to be an essential part of who the man was. It seems to me that the saddest part of his passing is having to acknowledge that we seem to have come to the end of the time when literature, or at least the novel, was an important part of the American discussion. Consider Vidal and Mailer the last of the literary celebrities.

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