Weird Old Crackpot Novelist: To Me Hell Is the United States of Today

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A few years ago, I appeared on the BBC World Service program "World Have Your Say" opposite some insufferably posh woman whose name was preceded by "Baroness," a series of unintelligible callers from Asia and the Maghreb, and the esteemed American author Gore Vidal. I sat alone in the Beeb's Washington studio wearing Arnold Drummond headphones, and, because of some technical error on the London end, I joined the program already well in progress. It was an error the producer kindly rectified by asking me to stay on for a segment about Jay-Z and his impact on the falling dollar (long, stupid story).

While I listened helplessly, unable to chime in, Vidal argued that it was presumptuous to say that a child couldn't consent to being photographed in sexual situations and mumbled something about the injustice of child pornography laws. No surprise, then, that earlier this year Vidal told The Atlantic this about Roman Polanski's thirteen-year-old victim: "Look am I going to sit and weep every time a young hooker feels as though she's being taken advantage of?"

In his BBC interview (and in The Atlantic), he wasn't being clever or funny or smart—qualities, I am told, that he once possessed. Both were embarrassing, almost incoherent, performances, either indicating that he had finally gone completely around the bend or that his "look at me, I'm outrageous" schtick couldn't keep up in this blogofied century. Via Arts and Letters Daily, I see that Christopher Hitchens, who Vidal once anointed his dauphin, has also noted the great novelist's descent into crackpottery:

For some years now, the old boy's stock-in-trade has been that of the last Roman: the stoic eminence who with unclouded eyes foresees the coming end of the noble republic. Such an act doesn't require a toga, but it does demand a bit of dignity. Vidal's phrasings sometimes used to have a certain rotundity and extravagance, but now he has descended straight to the cheap, and even to the counterfeit. What business does this patrician have in the gutter markets, where paranoids jabber and the coinage is debased by every sort of vulgarity?

Hitchens catalogs a good deal of Vidal's recent lunacies, though doesn't get to his uncontrollable Castrophilia. So allow me. He recently told a sycophantic British interviewer that the Cuban dictator "made a rather dour and rather sad country into a very happy one." On his Beatrice Webb tour of Cuba in 2007 he found that the health system was first rate, with all sorts of beeping and bleeping gizmos, and a country that was "pioneering in food and electronics." He is doubtless working on his next book of memoirs (he must be good for another) on a Cuban laptop. In a recent interview with The Independent, Vidal claims that the crimes committed by communist dictatorships happened only because the United States "goaded them" to murder. Oh, and he also tells the paper that his old pen pal Timothy McVeigh was "a noble boy."

Rereading this interview Vidal gave to Robert Scheer in 2007, I was struck by this passage:

Scheer: There was a picture of [Michael Moore] down there in Cuba, filming.  So maybe there'll be some popular exposure [to the health care system], too.

Vidal: It would be nice.  

Scheer: One interesting thing that got me about the Cuban medical system is—.  They have sent these people everywhere—to Africa…

Vidal: Yes.  Angola.

Scheer: Yeah, and everything.  These are people you'd think would be candidates to defect.  Because they've got this education.  Surprisingly, they seem to be quite loyal.

Of course, the Cubans were doing rather more in Angola than performing endoscopies on dyspeptic natives. But Scheer's point—that the selfless doctors of the revolution wouldn't dare defect—is simply untrue. In fact, a few more wonderfully educated medical professionals escaped to the United States via Venezuela just last week. And in 2009, a total of 200 doctors from a single Venezuelan mision defected to the United States. According to this report, approximately 2,000 Cuban doctors have arrived in Miami since 2006.

But let's end on a clever quote from the infinitely clever Gore Vidal, discussing his boundless erudition and his hatred of the United States: "I'm the least primitive American you're going to meet, and you have to be pretty primitive to believe in hell. To me hell is the United States of today."

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  1. How can this be the same guy who wrote Creation and Julian?

    1. Moynihan sure does have an axe to grind with this guy. How many times has he referred to Vidal’s crack about Polanski and his 13 year old “victim” in the last few months?

      1. Pretty nasty crack. I might beat Vidal with it, too, if I had to right stuff for a living.

        1. if I had to right stuff for a living.

          You made the correct career choice.

          1. Indeed. My editor must’ve been out taking a coffee break when I dispatched that missive.

    2. Looks like grandpa crapped his pants, again!

      1. He don’t give a damn.

    3. And why do so many doddering old liberals becomes pedos like him?

  2. He got old. Reason seems bound to remind us of that again and again.

    1. His family should’ve hidden him away, long ago. By telling him that the CIA wanted to kill him.

    2. You know who else got old? Yep, Andy Rooney.

      1. He was cranky in the first place.

  3. “And now to , who is in our Manchester studios, which is unfortunate, because we are all in London right now”.
    — Michael Palin

  4. And in 2009, a total of 200 doctors from a single Venezuelan mision defected to the United States. According to this report, approximately 2,000 Cuban doctors have arrived in Miami since 2006.

    And yet it is the US that has the health care problem . . . Or so we are told by the Statists.

    1. Old Mexican-

      We have plenty of problems with our health care.

      First, and foremost, we have too much socialized medicine already. What would you call a system in which the state purchases upwards of 70% of the healthcare services delivered? It is already collapsing under the strains of collectivism.

      Too many conservatives and too many GOPsters are arguing that there isn’t anything to fix. We have “the greatest helathcare system in the world” and “we have the best and brightest medical minds in the world.”
      How hollow, how flaccid and how unambiguously and unequivocally and demonstrably wrong.

      If one cites to polls indicating that most Americans are happy with their health care plans as support for the proposition that there is nothing to fix or that everything is just fine because we have this great market based health care system, one should be prepared to be thrashed. All such polls reveal (if one places any stock in such “scientific” polls) is that those polled sure appreciate the joys of third party payments and welfare state entitlementitis.

      1. Libertymike,

        You’re preaching to the choir – you do not need to tell me. I just found it funny that doctors from the supposed Health Care paradise are actually defecting to an America that’s supposed to have people dying on the streets for “lack of health insurance.”

        1. Okay.

          As you might suspect, I abhor Castro and those who champion him and Cuba’s marvelous health care.

          I just get worked up though by those who claim what a great health care system we have, what with iatrogenic death being in the top 3 or 4 leading causes of death.

      2. Too many conservatives and too many GOPsters are arguing that there isn’t anything to fix. We have “the greatest helathcare system in the world” and “we have the best and brightest medical minds in the world.”

        How hollow, how flaccid and how unambiguously and unequivocally and demonstrably wrong.

        Agreed. It’s like the right exists solely to be a foil to the left. I think Rush Limbaugh made some similar comments recently following his surgery. It made him seem out of touch because with his wealth, I doubt he even remembers what an ordinary American experiences with health care.

    1. It’s a small lion that would eat carcass without hesitation. A dog would wait.

    2. Bond Villain?

      1. Hell, yeah! That would be so full of awesome. Bring back Blofeld in the next Bond movie (played by Vidal with the cat), but don’t script him. Just let Vidal ramble on and catch it all on film.

        That would be so amazingly great.

  5. This really bothers me, some of his novels are great.

  6. He’s a cousin to Al Gore.
    Batshit-crazy runs in some families.

  7. As hellish as 2010 America is, at least I don’t have to listen to Gore Vidal.

  8. Vidal is a talented writer and an insufferable asshole? Someone tell Harlan Ellison he’s got company!

    1. It’s not assholeness that’s at issue; it’s total lunacy.

      He wasn’t this insane when he could write well. Maybe there’s a correlation?

      1. I see a correlation between no one giving that much of a shit about him any more and the insanity ramping up, but that’s about it.

        1. That could be it. Pay attention to me! Now! Okay, I’m going to get crazier! And crazier! And crazier!

          Bet Vidal gets busted trying to blow up a plane on the way back to the U.S. for a visit.

          He should just go write a novel. Maybe another Roman emperor book or something.

        2. Yes, the insanity maybe ramping up and I can’t say I was ever a fan; however, Moynihan’s contention is not helped by the repeated reference to Vidal’s Atlantic Monthly comments regarding Polanski. What Moynihan does not get is that not everybody, the world over, believes that 13 year olds are FACTUALLY incapable of providing consent.

          IOW, if Moynihan’s argument is that Vidal is a loon because of his Atlantic Monthly comment, the argument is EPIC FAIL.

          1. The books I mentioned at the top of this thread are excellent, and I highly recommend both of them. He was a great writer, once.

          2. The age of consent is 13 in Spain, so you have a point. However, that doesnt justify calling her a hooker. And “age of consent” still requires consent. Rape is rape.

            1. But it wasn’t RAPE rape. You see, he was a celebrity so it is OK.

    2. God damn motherfucking tags this is what happens when I try to quick-post at work

      1. I decided to give you a pass on your misuse of italics. This once.

  9. It’s a racist conspiracy.

    The tags, that is.

    And the threaded comments.

    1. The tags are malfunctioning due to the server squirrel’s organizing. Now one has to open a tag and another has to close. If the closer is on break when he is needed, his brother squirrel can’t close for him as it would violate the contract.

      1. You think they’re paid? By libertarians? You know those guys are all pro-slavery.

        1. I’m unsure of the pay situation but am told that the squirrels had to organize due to the libertarians collective addiction to radical individualism.

          1. now that’s funny

  10. ok pedophile bad…but everything he says in the interview on the video clip is dead on.

    It seems Moynihan is trying to mix the two issues and basically smear anti-war sentiment with pedophilia charges.

    1. What about the other stuff quoted above?

      Vidal claims that the crimes committed by communist dictatorships happened only because the United States “goaded them” to murder. Oh, and he also tells the paper that his old pen pal Timothy McVeigh was “a noble boy.”

      1. How can you be a novelist and have such a gooshy view of human nature? Surely being a novelist– and Vidal on occasion has been a very good, if not great one– means recognizing that things happen because people do them for reasons that matter to them, not because they’re the limp pawns of outside forces.

    2. but everything he says in the interview on the video clip is dead on.

      A kook whose only sane remarks are being against wars that are now controlled and perpetuated by its original protesters.

    3. ok pedophile bad…but everything he says in the interview on the video clip is dead on.

      It seems Moynihan is trying to mix the two issues and basically smear anti-war sentiment with pedophilia charges.

      He’s not just anti-war, he’s a freaking 9/11 “truther” for crying out loud.

      1. Mike, I agree. This is a huge differnce. This is like the difference between distrusting politicians and being like David Icke and thinking that they are (literal) lizard people.

        1. HHHSSSSSS

  11. Once card check passes, the squirrels will have us by the nuts.

  12. I defy the squirrels. Hear me? I defy them. With great defying defiance.

  13. a Cuban laptop

    That’s a great euphemism in the making. Any ideas?

    1. with some similarity to a dirty sanchez?

    2. a cuban laptop: hooker residing in a communist nation. Often noted for their small size due to malnutrition. ie laptop accessible.

      1. I hate malnourished hookers. Their bones break so easily. It’s unsporting.

    3. Didn’t we used to call those things typewriters?

  14. “What business does this patrician have in the gutter markets, where paranoids jabber and the coinage is debased by every sort of vulgarity?”

    Hitchens reads the Hit&Run; comments!

  15. He is a RACIST!!! How can he criticize any country that elected a black man as President! He is a racist! Anyone who criticizes this country with Obama at its helm is a racist!!!

  16. Hitchens is on a stupid God prove you are real crusade and Vidal is a vulgar jackass. They both bore me equally.

    1. Those two men hold some asinine positions, but both are brilliant writers. Isn’t that worth anything anymore?

      1. The value of their writing is subjective. I would find more import if they engaged in a bitch-slapping contest.

        1. I actually agree with someone Mary Stack said.

          Hitchens is far more sane than Vidal, but something about vehemently arguing against religion fails to inspire.

          It’s like one went on a crusade to convince 4 year olds that Santa doesn’t exist.

          1. Well, Hazel I agree with you too. Vidal has fallen/jumped over the edge and just doesn’t know he is dead yet. I always thought Hitchens was an insecure child looking to get a person-to-person call from God. I hear his next book is titled :Are You There God? It’s Me Hitchie

            1. So, when religious types claim to have conversations with god, they’re cool, right? When someone not religious invites god to a chat they’re insecure children?

              Ell Oh Effing Ell.

              1. Talking to God is “cool”. Yahweh does not send text messages through his iPhone but the good news his he is on twitter.

                1. Mary, don’t quit your day job…

          2. Hazel, your last paragraph is absolutely true, just not in the way you probably meant it. ;{)>

            1. You only THINK I didn’t mean it that way… 😉

    2. I have a real soft spot for Hitchens, even when I frequently disagree with him. “Letters to a Young Contrarian” and “Love, Poverty and War” have some amazing writing.

  17. Don’t forget the famed Cuban Gynecologist/small-business owner:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7b5CKSqlz60

  18. Gore Vidal is a light-skinned white American with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.

  19. Wow, that old fella really has gone off his rocker, amirite?

    At least he and Moynihan were both smart enough to oppose the war in Iraq from the very beginning, though.

    1. Wait, nevermind.

      Only Vidal did that. Moynihan was all about it.

      How does it feel, Michael, to watch a doddering old fool (who went mad ten years ago) show you up publicly?

  20. “I’m the least primitive American you’re going to meet”

    Gore Vidal has no ego at all, does he?

  21. Shouldn’t Gore Vidal be worried about rectal bleeding?

    1. It would require he have a shred of empathy or ethics for him to be concerned about the perforated colons of young boys.

      1. LOL.. trust the libertarians to go after other people’s sex acts..

        1. If they are between adults and children there can be no true consent. Libertarians support consensual acts and oppose coercion. This person seems to have no shred of ethics at all and does not mind coercive acts.

  22. Really, fucking Venezuela? That’s where the Cuban doctors went to defect to the US? You have got to be kidding me.

    1. No, Castro is sending medical teams to Venezuela to help outget money from his old buddy Chavez and they are defecting pretty much as soon as they arrive.

      There are reports that the ones that don’t get out to the US or Europe are going underground in Venezuela and taking menial jobs to get by.

      That’s how wonderful being a Cuban doctor is, I guess.

  23. “…because of some technical error on the London end, I joined the program already well in progress” Come provinciali! Il piccolo Amercian pens? che era ricercato. Gore vous ?tes la seule petite chienne nous ne pouvons tol?rer en Europe.

  24. I was actually briefly inrigued by Vidal’s writings about McVeigh, because what I read seemed to suggest that Vidal was just advocating that people actually pay attention the why of McVeigh, instead of just saying he was crazy and calling it a day.

    But between defending McVeigh’s tactics, defending Roman Polanski’s rape, and defending Castro, he’s clearly an equal opportunity scumbag. It’s not the politics, clearly Vidal just supports the murdering (and the raping! Don’t forget that!)

  25. Look, guys. I can appreciate this article for the fact that I for years had leftists quoting Gore Vidal at me as if that proved something about America.

    Now, I can only get fun by quoting bat-shit insane Gore Vidal back at them. Just to remind them that they were gullible enough to venerate this shitbag and take his word as goaspel not so long ago.

    1. ah yes.. the “goaspel” half action verb, half goat, half withcraft, half some nitwit who can’t spell…

      in all?

      half a wit..

      1. It’s a neologism, combining “goat” with “gospel.”

      2. oh, horrors, I made a typo. Will I never live it down?

      3. Didn’t Andrew Lloyd Webber product Goatspell?

  26. Vidal hasn’t done anything of note for years, and he was overrated in his prime, IMHO. Now he’s just another old, stupid leftist whacko. Who cares?

  27. He’s been a good essayist, don’t know anything about his “great” novels, but apparently he’s turned into someone’s crazy aunt. Oh well.

    1. He did some nice turns as a historical fiction author.

  28. Where’s William F. Buckley when you need him? Hell, where are the screaming hoards of “take back the night” feminists?

    -jcr

  29. He recently told a sycophantic British interviewer that the Cuban dictator “made a rather dour and rather sad country into a very happy one.”

    Ah, yes… All those happy, happy Cubans who would row an inner tube to Miami if they could.

    -jcr

  30. Somebody tell that senile old queen to shut the fuck up. He’s NOT HELPING.

    Love,

    Roman

  31. If William F. Buckley were still around, he’d punch that goddamn queer in the nose.

  32. Better to rule in hell than serve in heaven.

  33. Buckley was CIA all the way. His job was to take the leadership of the right with eloquent retoric in favor of many of the things we all agree with, but then to 100% push support the military industrial complex at the expense of all the principles. He suceeded in neutralizing the free market movement.

  34. It’s true. Today the CIA has Sarah Palin doing the exact same thing.

  35. Hitchens’s piece was a little unfair. First he introduces the idea that Vidal is this century’s Oscar Wilde, then he goes on to explain why that’s not so. The primary reason, of course, which goes unstated, is that Wilde died at 46. I doubt he would have retained his sharp wit into his 80s had he lived that long.

  36. Tony has it right: Vidal is “weird” and “crackpot” BECAUSE he’s old. Not every literary genius’s mind survives and thrives as he approaches the River Styx. What is indecent, here, is the fact that journalists keep on dragging the man back into the public, doting on him as if he were a sage, not an old grump. The grump’s seen better days. Of course he has. And we should have the decency not to make too much of it.

  37. Hitchens’ piece can be found here.

    The H&R link did not work for me, for some reason.

  38. Tony has it right: Vidal is “weird” and “crackpot” BECAUSE he’s old.

    Nah. He turned into a weird crackpot long before he got old.

  39. Hitchens actually made me like Vidal more in one respect: previously I thought Vidal was pushing the line that our problems are due to Truman, who perverted FDR’s noble legacy. Good to see he looks down on FDR as well.

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