When Vidal Spoke, People Taped

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Conversations with Gore VidalConversations with Gore Vidal
Edited by Richard Peabody and Lucinda Ebersole
University Press of Mississippi
196 pages, $20.

 

LOVABLE, unlovable, wicked, vain, altruistic, egomaniacal, funny—all of these describe Vidal in the interviews he’s given over the years. The years go from 1960 to 2003, the final being Amy Goodman’s politically astute interview about post-9/11 America, originally published in Democracy Now. Most of the interviews include prologues that describe where and how Vidal was living at the time. In 1974, for instance, Gerald Clark (in The Paris Review) describes Vidal as living “in a run-down penthouse with plants that need watering.” Clark reports that at the relatively young age of fifty Vidal is already hanging it up: he writes that he’s deteriorating physically and watches that fact “with fascination.” In a 1984 interview, Charles Ruas (in Conversations with American Writers) describes Vidal as “slightly heavier than he appears in person” but goes on to praise his “straight thin nose and firm jaw line.” By 1988, all references to his physical appearance have ceased.

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