Monday, October 03, 2005
It hardly seems possible that Gore Vidal has today turned 80. The prose of America's most effective public intellectual still has all the energy and fresh anger of someone in their twenties, combined with a richly-textured wisdom that a lifetime of working with ideas has ripened into the kind of fine old wine that warms you all the way down to your toes.
The man who is affectionately referred to -- when writers who, like myself, have been inspired and taught by this quintessentially American radical, chat with each other about him -- as "Uncle Gore" was, it seems, born wise. His deep understanding of the world and of human character shone through in his first published novel, Williwaw, written when he was only 21, and has never ceased to enlighten and entertain. This country's unrivaled political essayist, a novelist, playwright, scenarist, literary critic, television host, raconteur extraordinaire, lecturer, an eternal rebel and the greatest American pamphleteer since Tom Paine, long before the Stonewall riots Vidal by example taught generations of "same-sexers" --his preferred vocable -- how to live an open, honest life that never betrayed any shame at loving differently from the majority, and that refused to accept the limitations on possibility imposed by prejudice and ignorance.