ON THE PASSING OF GORE VIDAL
October 3, 1925 – July 31, 2012
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.