Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Vidal on Video

The other night--responding to one of Netflix's if-you-liked-X-then-you-should-try-Y suggestions--Joyce and I started streaming the 2013 documentary Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia (link to the trailer for the film). I posted here earlier when Vidal died in 2012 (link to earlier post), and in that post I talked about my long history with Vidal. I'd never met him, but I'd read him for decades--always with admiration--and I'd taught his stories "The No-Talent Kid" and "Harrison Bergeron" for years. I'd also, for a time, showed his film The Left Handed Gun (it was his story) about Billy the Kid, and some classes had read his fine play Visit to a Small Planet, about a weird alien who arrives and proceeds to foment war wherever he can; war, we find out later, was his hobby. By the way, he did another Billy the Kid film in 1989 with Val Kilmer as the Kid. Link to trailer.

I didn't realize until right now that there's a film of that play (Visit to a Small Planet)--with Jerry Lewis as the alien. I'm going to have to go find that film somewhere ... ah! Just checked: I can stream it on AmazonPrime--and will do so ASAP (and, thus, have another post!).

Anyway, the 2013 documentary. It's a wonderful piece of work (check out the details on IMDB)--especially if you agree with Vidal's Lefty, skeptical politics--which I do. You see footage of him as a boy--and as an older man near the end of his life. And throughout Joyce and I were dazzled by his ... dazzle. His was so witty, so caustic, so right so much of the time, and we realized, watching, that there is no one remotely like him on the political stage today.

Jay Parini
By the way--students who were at Western Reserve Academy in April 2012 will be happy to see the important presence in the film of Jay Parini, the writer who visited WRA for a day--talked in the Chapel--visited classes. Parini is Vidal's literary executor, is writing his biography, and has many interesting things to say about Vidal throughout the documentary. It was from Parini, by the way, that I learned in 2012 that Vidal was dying.

The film deals also with Christopher Hitchens, who'd once been a potential heir/successor to Vidal. But Vidal disinherited and disavowed him when Hitchens came out in support of the Iraq War--and then, of course, Hitchens died in 2011. Before he died, though, Hitchens attacked Vidal in the pages of Vanity Fair (see link later on). Their falling out was big (and bitter) news in the literary/political world. Here's a link to a YouTube video of Vidal commenting on Hitchens. And--to be fair--here's Hitchens on Vidal.

Joyce and I both ended up being very moved by the film--the sad scenes near the end (his necessary move from his beloved home in Italy) are wrenching.

As I've written here before, we're sorting our books, getting ready to dispose of/sell/donate many of them. But not the Vidals. They're all staying right where they belong. Right where we can get to them.

AND ... here's a link to a list of all his books on Amazon. And to his New York Times obituary.
Vidal, the young rebel at 21

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