(Page 2 of 3)
He had several falls. Vidal ruptured a disk lifting him up, and also developed an ulcer from worrying about him and dealing with “the ongoing bureaucracy of American medicine, never again to be avoided this side of Rock Creek Cemetery.” And as if all this were not enough, he was rewriting his movie, The Catered Affair, for television, complete with 44 breaks all in the right places; “slices of movie filler to separate the commercials from each other.”
Howard began to hallucinate and had to have radiation for the brain tumor, his head bolted in place while gamma rays were zapped into his skull. Then came pneumonia, followed by heart spasms. The descriptions are almost unbearable to read, but it is as he is lying quietly in the hospital that a perfect brushstroke of a sentence clinches the whole experience in a single touching detail: “The hospital bed had a railing around it and one could barely poke a hand through in order to hold his hand.” No one who has ever been a patient or a visitor in a hospital could read that with a dry eye.
Howard died at 74 in 2005. Reflecting on their long successful life together, Vidal says without fanfare: “But then it is easy to sustain a relationship when sex plays no part and impossible, I have observed, when it does. Each had a sex life apart from the other: all else, including our sovereign, Time, was shared.”
POINT TO POINT NAVIGATION ZIGZAGS a lot and frequently doubles back, but it makes port without foundering. It carries a classic Vidal cargo with a generous store of name-dropping (“Howard and I sailed the Aegean in a caique with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward”); Zelig moments (how he invented the Peace Corps and “passed the proposition along to Jack”); devastating descriptions (Jacqueline Susann’s thick false eyelashes “resembled a pair of tarantulas in a postcoital state”), (Tony Blair’s “tic-like smile and bright vulpine stare”); Garbo in an androgynous mood, making a point of leaving the toilet seat up after using the bathroom at a party; catty digs at Truman Capote (who plagiarized Eudora Welty because “he wanted to be a great Southern lady writer too”); and spot-on one-liners (“Commercialism is the ability to do well what ought not to be done at all”).
There is plenty of dish, such as Eleanor Roosevelt’s resentment of his aviation-pioneer father’s affair with Amelia Earhart, “for whom she had a Sapphic passion that Amelia found disconcerting. Amelia said that Eleanor was always suggesting they make flights together all around the country, just the two of them, communing with the wind and the stars.” The aviatrix supposedly wanted to marry the elder Vidal, but he declined, saying he thought of her only as a friend and flying companion. Shortly before her last mysterious flight from which she never returned, she wrote him a long emotional letter which his wife found and destroyed, never telling her stepson Gore what was in it, but his father speculated that Earhart had deliberately crashed her plane to escape her miserable marriage to the publisher G.P. Putnam, and because “she was having some sort of premature menopause.”
He also passes along a story that touches obliquely on one of the personages in our 2004 election. At a dinner party given by the late Princess Margaret Rose sometime around 1990, the guests included Vidal, Jack Nicholson, Tony Richardson, and, seated across from Princess Margaret, “Senator John Heinz… soon to be killed in a plane crash.” Princess Margaret whispered to Vidal, “Isn’t he beautiful?” and Vidal says: “I complimented her on her taste.” Senator Heinz was Teresa Heinz Kerry’s first husband. Does this mean that he and Princess Margaret were lovers?p>These are one type of Vidal story, not proven but well within the realm of possibility all the same. Another type of Vidal story is the jaw-dropper. The one included here claims that when Pope Pius XII died in 1958, he was embalmed by an amateur taxidermist: br> /p>
…while he lay in state in the basilica, he turned, according to one viewer, “emerald green.” Then, in response to the summer heat, he suddenly exploded. This was kept from the world for a long time until someone (a Jesuit?) passed on the information. It is also reported that many sturdy Swiss guardsmen fainted during this holy combustion.br> For conservatives for whom the name Gore Vidal is anathema, there is hope: He loathes the New York Times . His war with the gray eminence began in 1948 when he published his second novel, The City and the Pillar , an openly gay work, and the paper’s most powerful book critic was so shocked that he swore he would never review the author again.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?