Gore Vidal moved on to a better place yesterday at the age of 86, if the New York Times pre-prepared obituary is correct. That means, if I still remember how to do arithmetic, that he was born in 1925, which seems like a very long time ago. I'm sure the Times has had that obituary ready to go for a many years now since they were understandably anxious to see him buried along with his work. The Times was just the sort of "news source" that delighted in savaging Vidal everytime he spoke about the lamentable history of the United States.
I liked Vidal as an historian and an essayist. By the time I achieved some sort of primitive consciousness in the mid-1970s, Vidal had already lived for half a century, and he was one of the last of his kind, if not the last. Vidal still remembered the American Republic as it was before the National Security Act of 1947, which inaugurated the American Empire. After that, Vidal spoke more and more disparagingly about that Empire, to the great dismay of the New York Times and all the official, corporate-owned arbiters of America's history and current circumstances (Disney, CBS, Time Warner, News Corporation, and so on).
I got my introduction to Vidal the historian when I read the novel Burr sometime in the late 1970s. I thought then, and still think now, that it is one of the most splendid books I have ever read. (Vidal was a great historian who wrote no history, only historical novels.) Colonel Burr, who narrates much of our early history in the novel, is a dear friend of mine. So is Cyrus Spitama, who narrates Vidal's 1981 novel Creation. I bought that remarkable book when I was living in Turino, Italy in the early 1990s. I still have the original, nearly worn-out paperback. The novel takes place in the 5th century B.C., and in it we meet the Buddha, Confucius, Mahavira (Jains), Lao-Tzu (Taoism) and many other exceptional men (and women).
If you like reading incisive (and some not so incisive) essays, I recommend Vidal's The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000. He liked to talk about America's sordid Imperial history, media censorship, which is usually a form of self-censorship (right thinking), how he himself had been censored, and similar topics. I don't write about that stuff much on DOTE, although I am (to the degree necessary) well-versed in it.
I don't write about that stuff much because if I did, the wacko Leftists who still dwell among us would get very confused and start sending me countless e-mails about Saving America and electing Dennis "the Menace" Kucinich president, or they would send me endless breathless announcements pinpointing the next Chris Hedges sighting. I would never be able to make those Leftists understand that I don't think Human Improvement is possible, as they do, and that's why I think they are terminally delusional. In fact, those irrepressible Leftists demonstrate by their very words and deeds, as did Vladimir Lenin and Augustin Robespierre before them, that the goal of Human Improvement is off the table, or should be. But that is a different story.
Gore Vidal will be missed by fewer and fewer people. However, as far as I know, reading is still legal in America, though it is much discouraged. I recommend the earlier historical novels—Burr, Lincoln and 1876. Or the essays. Famous figures waltz in and out of those novels. You feel like you're eavesdropping on history. It's great fun, and informative, too. I'm sorry he's gone.