Gore Vidal: the United States of Amnesia

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

In a mere 89 minutes, Nicholas Wrathall’s documentary cements Gore Vidal’s status as an icon of American letters. It was like watching a fireworks display. Vidal commands the screen and leaves you wanting to know more. Indeed, after I write this review, I’m running out to buy his novels. The documentary shows that Vidal, a prolific writer, was not like a lot of writers, prone to quiet and isolation; he enjoyed the company of entertainers and intellectuals alike. He always had a deadpan quip for any question or as an addition to a conversation.

It was this quick wit and candid commentary that might have prevented Vidal from being successful in politics. His opinion on TV commercials was that, “we sell soap and presidents the same way.” Vidal lived a life much like the counter narrative he was always presenting to us. Some of his most acerbic commentary was against the war on terrorism as a reaction to 9/11. The war on terrorism is a metaphor, like having a war on dandruff, he states. While I wonder how the Democratic Party would be different had Vidal succeeded in politics, I believe that we are the luckier for it; politics would not have allowed the time for his amazing literary legacy. 

I encourage everyone, not just those familiar with Gore Vidal, to see this film. It will lead to great conversation, something Vidal relished, and the one way we can truly honor such a talent. He said that a table and a chair are what all writers really need. This, of course, is an understatement, as many writers will attest. However, it was all Vidal needed.




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