Gore Vidal quotes

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Gore Vidal

Birthdate: 3. October 1925
Date of death: 31. July 2012

Eugene Louis "Gore" Vidal was an American writer and public intellectual known for his patrician manner, epigrammatic wit, and polished style of writing.

He was born to a political family; his maternal grandfather, Thomas Pryor Gore, served as United States senator from Oklahoma . He was a Democratic Party politician who twice sought elected office; first to the United States House of Representatives , then to the U.S. Senate .

As a political commentator and essayist, Vidal's principal subject was the history of the United States and its society, especially how the militaristic foreign policy reduced the country to a decadent empire. His political and cultural essays were published in The Nation, the New Statesman, the New York Review of Books, and Esquire magazines. As a public intellectual, Gore Vidal's topical debates on sex, politics, and religion with other intellectuals and writers occasionally turned into quarrels with the likes of William F. Buckley Jr. and Norman Mailer. As such, and because he thought all men and women are potentially bisexual, Vidal rejected the adjectives "homosexual" and "heterosexual" when used as nouns, as inherently false terms used to classify and control people in society.

As a novelist Vidal explored the nature of corruption in public and private life. His polished and erudite style of narration readily evoked the time and place of his stories, and perceptively delineated the psychology of his characters. His third novel, The City and the Pillar , offended the literary, political, and moral sensibilities of conservative book reviewers, with a dispassionately presented male homosexual relationship. In the historical novel genre, Vidal re-created in Julian the imperial world of Julian the Apostate , the Roman emperor who used general religious toleration to re-establish pagan polytheism to counter the political subversion of Christian monotheism. In the genre of social satire, Myra Breckinridge explores the mutability of gender role and sexual orientation as being social constructs established by social mores. In Burr and Lincoln , the protagonist is presented as "A Man of the People" and as "A Man" in a narrative exploration of how the public and private facets of personality affect the national politics of the U.S.

Works

Julian
Julian
Gore Vidal
Two Sisters
Two Sisters
Gore Vidal
Lincoln
Lincoln
Gore Vidal

„Apparently, a concern for others is self-love at its least attractive, while greed is now a sign of the higher altruism.“

—  Gore Vidal

Source: 1990s, Screening History (1992), Ch. 1: The Prince and the Pauper, p. 24
Context: Apparently, a concern for others is self-love at its least attractive, while greed is now a sign of the higher altruism. But then to reverse, periodically, the meanings of words is a very small price to pay for the freedom not only to conform but to consume.

„How marvelous books are, crossing worlds and centuries, defeating ignorance and, finally, cruel time itself.“

—  Gore Vidal, book Julian

Source: 1960s, Julian (1964), Chapter 1, Libanius to Priscus, Antioch March 380

„Half the American people never read a newspaper. Half never vote for President — the same half?“

—  Gore Vidal

Sometimes quoted as: Half of the American people never read a newspaper. Half never voted for president. One hopes it is the same half.
[Bill, Maxwell, http://www.sptimes.com/2002/07/07/Columns/In_gloomy_times__let_.shtml, In gloomy times, let's try to find a sense of humor, St. Petersberg Times, 2002-07-07, 2008-10-04]
Variant: Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half.
Source: 1990s, Screening History (1992), Ch. 1: The Prince and the Pauper, p. 5

„We should stop going around babbling about how we're the greatest democracy on earth, when we're not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarised republic.“

—  Gore Vidal

"Gore Vidal and the Mind of the Terrorist" http://www.abc.net.au/arts/books/stories/s432193.htm, interview by Ramona Koval, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio National (November 2001)
2000s
Context: We should stop going around babbling about how we're the greatest democracy on earth, when we're not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarised republic. The founding fathers hated two things, one was monarchy and the other was democracy, they gave us a constitution that saw to it we will have neither. I don't know how wise they were.

„The period of Prohibition — called the noble experiment — brought on the greatest breakdown of law and order the United States has known until today. I think there is a lesson here.“

—  Gore Vidal

"The State of the Union" (1975)
1970s, Homage to Daniel Shays : Collected Essays (1972), Matters of Fact and Fiction : Essays 1973 - 1976 (1978)
Context: The period of Prohibition — called the noble experiment — brought on the greatest breakdown of law and order the United States has known until today. I think there is a lesson here. Do not regulate the private morals of people. Do not tell them what they can take or not take. Because if you do, they will become angry and antisocial and they will get what they want from criminals who are able to work in perfect freedom because they have paid off the police.

„A current pejorative adjective is narcissistic. Generally, a narcissist is anyone better looking than you are, but lately the adjective is often applied to those “liberals” who prefer to improve the lives of others rather than exploit them.“

—  Gore Vidal

"Growing Up With Gore Vidal," Screening History (1994), p. 24.
1990s
Context: A current pejorative adjective is narcissistic. Generally, a narcissist is anyone better looking than you are, but lately the adjective is often applied to those “liberals” who prefer to improve the lives of others rather than exploit them. Apparently, a concern for others is self-love at its least attractive, while greed is now a sign of the highest altruism. But then to reverse, periodically, the meanings of words is a very small price to pay for our vast freedom not only to conform but to consume.

„Every four years the naive half who vote are encouraged to believe that if we can elect a really nice man or woman President everything will be all right. But it won't be.“

—  Gore Vidal

1990s, The Decline and Fall of the American Empire (1992)
Context: Every four years the naive half who vote are encouraged to believe that if we can elect a really nice man or woman President everything will be all right. But it won't be. Any individual who is able to raise $25 million to be considered presidential is not going to be much use to the people at large. He will represent oil, or aerospace, or banking, or whatever moneyed entities are paying for him. Certainly he will never represent the people of the country, and they know it. Hence, the sense of despair throughout the land as incomes fall, businesses fail and there is no redress.

„Big oil, big steel, big agriculture avoid the open marketplace.“

—  Gore Vidal

"The State of the Union" (1978)
1970s, Homage to Daniel Shays : Collected Essays (1972), Matters of Fact and Fiction : Essays 1973 - 1976 (1978)
Context: Big oil, big steel, big agriculture avoid the open marketplace. Big corporations fix prices among themselves and thus drive out of business the small entrepreneur. Also, in their conglomerate form, the huge corporations have begun to challenge the very legitimacy of the state.

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„Lennon was somebody who was a born enemy of those who govern the United States. He was everything they hated.“

—  Gore Vidal

Quoted in the documentary The U.S. vs John Lennon (2006) — video excerpt at The Huffington Post (12 September 2006) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2006/09/12/video-john-lennon-was-_n_29293.html
2000s
Context: Lennon was somebody who was a born enemy of those who govern the United States. He was everything they hated. So I just say that he represented life, and is admirable; and Mr. Nixon and Mr. Bush represent death, and that is a bad thing.

„Nothing human is finally calculable; even to ourselves we are strange.“

—  Gore Vidal

Source: 1960s, Julian (1964), Chapter 4
Context: They say to know oneself is to know all there is that is human. But of course no one can ever know himself. Nothing human is finally calculable; even to ourselves we are strange.

„It is reasonable to assume that, by and large, what is not read now will not be read, ever.“

—  Gore Vidal

"Thomas Love Peacock: The Novel of Ideas" (1980)
1980s, The Second American Revolution (1983)
Context: It is reasonable to assume that, by and large, what is not read now will not be read, ever. It is also reasonable to assume that practically nothing that is read now will be read later. Finally, it is not too farfetched to imagine a future in which novels are not read at all.

„History is nothing but gossip about the past, with the hope that it might be true.“

—  Gore Vidal

Quoted in Gert Jonkers, "Gore Vidal, the Fantastic Man," Butt, No. 20 (7 April 2007)
2000s
Context: Everybody likes a bit of gossip to some point, as long as it’s gossip with some point to it. That’s why I like history. History is nothing but gossip about the past, with the hope that it might be true.

„It is notable how little empathy is cultivated or valued in our society.“

—  Gore Vidal

Source: 1990s, Screening History (1992), Ch. 2: Fire Over England, p. 49
Context: It is notable how little empathy is cultivated or valued in our society. I put this down to our traditional racism and obsessive sectarianism. Even so, one would think that we would be encouraged to project ourselves into the character of someone of a different race or class, if only to be able to control him. But no effort is made.

„Private lives should be no business of the State. The State is bad enough as it is.“

—  Gore Vidal

Quoted in Gert Jonkers, "Gore Vidal, the Fantastic Man," http://www.buttmagazine.com/?p=457 Butt, No. 20 (7 April 2007)
2000s
Context: Private lives should be no business of the State. The State is bad enough as it is. It cannot educate or medicate or feed the people; it cannot do anything but kill the people. No State like that do we want prying into our private lives.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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