Wednesday, August 1, 2012

No man is an island

Yesterday, while I was employed as a precinct clerk during Georgia’s 2012 primary election, Gore Vidal died in California at the age of 86.

He was a writer of novels both historical (Lincoln, Burr) and pornographic (Myra Breckenridge), a playwright (The Best Man, Visit to a Small Planet), an essayist, a writer of screenplays, and possessor of an acerbic wit. He was a failed politician. He was homosexual. He was bisexual. [Editor’s note. Pick one. --RWP] He was an atheist. He was a liberal gadfly who once called William F. Buckley a “crypto-Nazi” to his face on live television.

He was a distant cousin of Vice-President Al Gore, from whom he kept his distance, saying that one day each of them might benefit from “plausible deniability.”

He was a fifth cousin of President Jimmy Carter’s.

His step-father, Hugh D. Auchincloss, Jr., an heir to the Standard Oil fortune, was married at one point to Janet Bouvier, mother of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

Gore Vidal once wrote that the happiest words in the English language were “I told you so” and the three saddest ones were “Joyce Carol Oates.”

I read all of these things about him today in various articles and news reports.

I also found this photograph, which, like its subject, is only tangentially related to this post:

It’s the end of an era.

They just don’t make ’em like Gore Vidal any more.

If this post doesn’t make any sense, that’s all right. Grief does strange things sometimes.

John Donne probably said it best:

No man is an island, entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thine own or of thine friend’s were. Each man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

It’s true. No man is an island. But some men are definitely peninsulas.


Addendum (August 2, 2012): Here is a link to an article that captures Gore Vidal very well. It is by his biographer, Fred Kaplan, and includes 12 photographs of him (Gore, not Fred) over the years. Some of the comments that follow the article are every bit as interesting. To say that Gore Vidal could be outspoken and controversial is an understatement. Perhaps that is one reason I admired him so much even though our lifestyles were so very different. --RWP


  1. myra brecenridge is pornograhic???????????????????i declair i read that book and as i remember there wenr't even any pictures<><><>oh well go figure<><><>i declair i realize the older i get{ i am almost as old as ole bob here} the less i find out i know i guess i need ole bob to let me know where i stand on a dily basis

  2. Putzy Wutzy,, although the word pornography has come to mean writings, pictures, films, etc. designed to stimulate sexual excitement, it is from the Greek word pornographos, the writing of harlots [from pornē a harlot + graphein to write]. Writing. No pictures necessary. Live and learn.

  3. P.S. to Putz: I would be the last person to know where you stand on a dily basis.

  4. That was the trouble with Gore Vidal - he didn't find the one thing he was best at and stick to it!

  5. Eugene Louis Vidal - that was his real name - seemed exceedingly into self-publicity. Funny how the word "peninsula" appears rather lewd. I have visited Exeter, New Hampshire.

  6. Shooting Parrots, apparently he was a man for all reasons.

    Putz, I think of you as more of an archipelago.

    Yorky Poo, "peninsula" is not quite up there with "impenetrable" and "insurmountable." The words "testify" and "testimony" apparently originated from the custom of holding one's testicles to take an oath (swearing on one's manhood, as it were); the Old Testament says "and he placed his hand under his thigh."

  7. I didn't know anything about Gore Vidal at the time, but I read "Lincoln" back in the 80's.

  8. I don't know much about Gore Vidal. But I know a little bit now, although I'm a little confused where the Geography came in.

    I was engaged to someone from Nashua, New Hampshire for a while. It that relevant?

  9. katherine< of course that is relevant