reminiscing Vidal


Vidal rarely got angry. His characteristic outburst was a languorous sigh. “Rebirth of the novel? That seems unlikely.” Young people nowadays – this is 1976 again – “find the act of reading anything at all difficult and unrewarding”. As a preamble to his monumental effort to crush John Updike (10,000 words of TLS ordnance in 1996), he wrote: “What is the point to attacking writers in a period where they are of so little consequence? In observance of this law of a dying species, I have hardly mentioned, much less reviewed, Updike in the past . . .”. The burden of the sentence may be found in its finale: “. . . and he has observed the same continence with regard to me”. Yet – “the nicest of words in English”, Vidal once said (TLS, November 10, 2000) – gloom was but half of what is one of literature’s most durable double acts (Vidal’s career spanned eight decades). His vexation, over the state of the republic, the state of letters, of universities, Hollywood, had an opposing force: wit.

more from J.C. at the TLS here.