Gore Vidal's Literary Legacy

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

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?

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/08/gore-vidals-literary-legacy/260736/