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In Memory of Gore Vidal

In this column, we consider poignant quotations from our cultural heroes

A young Gore Vidal in Guatemala in 1947
A young Gore Vidal in Guatemala in 1947 From The Gore Vidal Papers, Courtesy of the Houghton Library, Harvard University

To mark the passing of Gore Vidal yesterday, AnOther selects some of the writer's key quotes, on subjects including America and success...

Yesterday the brilliantly witty, ever-acerbic writer Gore Vidal, whose prolific output includes 25 novels, countless essays and two memoirs, as well as a number of plays, screenplays and television dramas, passed away. Arguably the last of his applauded American generation, Vidal died following complications from pneumonia at his home in Los Angeles, aged 86.

Known for his Wildean one-liners and cutting pronouncements on modern-day America and its politics, Vidal shot to fame with his third novel The City and the Pillar, one of the first books to openly feature homosexuality. Vidal said of the book: "I sold a million copies and it caused much distress at the New York Times." This response was typical of Vidal’s glee in provocation and subversion; he spent much of his career engaged in public spats with contemporaries, once likening Norman Mailer to the killer Charles Manson.

To mark his passing, here AnOther presents a selection of Vidal's key quotes...

On style... “Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”

On finding inspiration… “First coffee, then a bowel movement. Then the Muse joins me.”

On favourite words… “The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so.”

On reading… “You hear all this whining going on, 'Where are our great writers?' The thing I might feel doleful about is: where are the readers?”

On America… “Happily for the busy lunatics who rule over us, we are permanently the United States of Amnesia. We learn nothing because we remember nothing.”

On history… “History is nothing but gossip about the past, with the hope that it might be true.”

On success… “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.” 

On sex… “Sex is. There is nothing more to be done about it. Sex builds no roads, writes no novels and sex certainly gives no meaning to anything in life but itself.”

On ageing… “I used to be able to summon up scenes at will, but now ageing memory is so busy weeding its own garden that, promiscuously, it pulls up roses as well as crabgrass.”

On his memoir… “I have begun writing what I have said I'd never write, a memoir ("I am not my own subject," I used to say with icy superiority).”

Eugene Luther Gore Vidal was born in New York on October 3, 1925 and passed away in Hollywood Hills, California on July 31, 2012.

Further Reading: Gore Vidal responds to Jefferson Hack's interpretation of the Proust Questionnaire.

Text by Daisy Woodward

Daisy Woodward is the social media and editorial assistant.


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