Gore Vidal's Literary Legacy

It's interesting that a lot of the reminisces I've read of Gore Vidal focus on who he was personally and what political positions he took. David Greenberg thinks Vidal was second-rate writer, and realizing this, settled into the comfy role of provocateur:


At some point in his career, Vidal seemed to realize he would never rank among the literary titans of the postwar age--an age that would belong to others, including Bellow, Roth, and Mailer, a troika of Jews. Politically marginalized, literarily confined to the second or third tier, Vidal turned to historical novels, where he distinguished himself as an able practitioner, while remaining heavy-handed in his politics. (He also attempted writing some works of actual history, but they drew scant attention.) Vidal's embrace of the past, too--he called himself, grandiosely, America's biographer--can be seen as a rearguard action. In the career he settled for, he would seek to reclaim a past after the present had passed him by--to resurrect, or at least to preserve in amber, the mores of a vanishing WASP elite with which he always identified. For all his radical posturing, it was but one more way that he was, in a deep sense, a conservative.

I haven't read his stuff. How does he rank as a writer among his peers?

Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Life as an Obama Impersonator

"When you think you're the president, you just act like you are above everybody else."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

VIdeo

Life as an Obama Impersonator

"When you think you're the president, you just act like you are above everybody else."

Video

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Video

Maine's Underground Street Art

"Graffiti is the farthest thing from anarchy."

Video

The Joy of Running in a Beautiful Place

A love letter to California's Marin Headlands

Video

'I Didn't Even Know What I Was Going Through'

A 17-year-old describes his struggles with depression.

More in Entertainment

From This Author

Just In