Thursday, August 2, 2012

On the passing of Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal
October 3, 1925 – July 31, 2012
 Wherever they were, both Charles Henri Ford and his sister Ruth always surrounded themselves with the most interesting people.  All the best writers and artists and composers and playwrights and filmmakers and actors and thinkers, those were the people they knew. And each time one of them passed, newspapers from around the world would report an immeasurable loss. Charles and Ruth are themselves among those immeasurable losses now, and like each individual in that world they inhabited, they are part of truly irreplaceable group.  The most recent of their old friends to leave is Gore Vidal. 

In the book Conversations with Gore Vidal, edited by Richard Peabody and Lucinda Ebersole (University Press of Mississippi 2005) Mr. Vidal recalls his first meeting with Charles. It happened one night when he was taken by Anais Nin to a party at Peggy Guggenheim’s, where along with Charles he met Parker Tyler, Andre Breton and James Agee. “Ford and Tyler used to put out View Magazine,” he says, “and I was charmed and intrigued. After all, I was a war novelist in the tradition of Stephen Crane, and it was miles different from what I thought Literature to be. Later, I was to absorb some of the paradoxes of surrealism—which you can find in Myra/Myron.”

There is a famous Gotham Book Mart photograph taken in 1948, a group photograph of famous poets sitting together in Gotham Book Mart. Charles himself was the person who arranged to have that photograph taken on the occasion of a visit to New York from The Sitwells. Charles suggested the idea to invite The Sitwells to the owner of the book shop, Frances Steloff, who at first was reluctant to believe that such famous poets would come to visit her small book shop. But Charles convinced her to invite them along with other poets, and they all came. Among those famous poets there was young Gore Vidal. Charles asked Life Magazine photographer, “What is Gore Vidal doing here? He’s not a poet.”  And the photographer answering something like, “Well, he said he was.” Charles always like to tell this story to others when they asked or talked about Gore Vidal.

I’m not sure how well Charles knew Gore Vidal before the day in 1948 when the photo was taken at the Gotham Book Mart, but certainly from that day on, Charles counted him as a good friend.  Very often I heard Charles speak about him. I’m sure I was introduced to Mr. Vidal by Charles at some point in late 70s at a screening or a literary event. A poet or not, Gore Vidal is one of the most elegant and sharp-witted writers we’ve had, and he will be very missed.

Rest in peace, Mr. Vidal. 

Gotham Book Mart Photograph, 1948.
(Pictured in the photo are: Osbert and Edith Sitwell (seated, center) W. H. Auden, on the ladder at top right, Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, Delmore Schwartz, Randall Jarrell, Charles Henri Ford (cross-legged, on the floor), William Rose Benét, Stephen Spender, Marya Zaturenska, Horace Gregory, Tennessee Williams, Richard Eberhart, Gore Vidal and José Garcia Villa.)


  1. Please contact 415 290 3527 Namaste Michelle

  2. Mentions of Gore Vidal and Auden gives me perspectives on your friends Ruth and Charles. Call me ignorant. :)