Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Gore Vidal, More Right Than Wrong

News of the passing of "an icy iconoclast [who] delighted in chronicling what he perceived as the disintegration of civilisation around him" — Gore Vidal.

Here's Bill Kauffman's review of the latest collection of essays from a man he says "has been a contumacious patriot of the Old Republic for nigh the entirety of the post-Republic era" — The Last Republican.

Here's some of what he said — Gore Vidal quotes: 26 of the best. I've taken the trouble of separating them, adding my own parenthetical remarks; it seems we can amend this last quote to say: "There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise [at least two-thirds of the time]:"

    "I never miss a chance to have sex or appear on television." [Honest enough, but hardly inspiring; both are neutral, good or bad depending on the purposes to which they are put.]

    "It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail." [True enough as an observation on human character.]

    "Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little." [Ditto.]

    "Andy Warhol is the only genius I've ever known with an IQ of 60." [Warhol was not a genius (excpet perhaps in marketing), and his IQ was 86.]

    "Fifty percent of people won't vote, and fifty percent don't read newspapers. I hope it's the same fifty percent." [Disgust is not the same as apathy.]

    "The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so." [Again, true enough as an observation on human character, but we can aspire to be better than that.]

    "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." [It has profound meaning as a sacrament.]

    "Think of the earth as a living organism that is being attacked by billions of bacteria whose numbers double every forty years. Either the host dies, or the virus dies, or both die." [Such ideas are really beneath any thinking person.]

    "A narcissist is someone better looking than you are." [Again, true as an observation on human character; see the quotes below on envy.]

    "Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically by definition be disqualified from ever doing so." [Well said.]

    "Democracy is supposed to give you the feeling of choice like, Painkiller X and Painkiller Y. But they're both just aspirin." [Perfect.]

    "Envy is the central fact of American life." [An astute observation on one of the seven deadly sins.]

    "The United States was founded by the brightest people in the country — and we haven't seen them since." [Right on!]

    "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." [Indeed.]

    "A good deed never goes unpunished." [At least in this world, usually.]

    "All children alarm their parents, if only because you are forever expecting to encounter yourself." [A genial observation on the uniqueness of each soul.]

    "Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates." [Yep.]

    "Some writers take to drink, others take to audiences." [We need more of the former.]

    "The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along, paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return." [Excellent.]

    "Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn." [Sure.]

    "The more money an American accumulates, the less interesting he becomes." [Uh-huh.]

    "Congress no longer declares war or makes budgets. So that's the end of the constitution as a working machine." [Long live the Old Republic!]

    "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." [More rightly: we've not even a republic anymore; we're a sort of militarised democracy.]

    "As the age of television progresses the Reagans will be the rule, not
    the exception. To be perfect for television is all a President has to
    be these days." [Now, even the Reagans look good.]

    "There is no such thing as a homosexual or a heterosexual person. There are only homo- or heterosexual acts. Most people are a mixture of impulses if not practices." [Why the author never used the word "gay" in his life.]

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