Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Gore Power to You: A New PBS Documentary Examines the Wonderfully Uncensored Political and Literary Life of Gore Vidal

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Gore Power to You: A New PBS Documentary Examines the Wonderfully Uncensored Political and Literary Life of Gore Vidal

Article excerpt

About halfway through the new PBS American Masters documentary The Education of Gore Vidal, the novelist, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, occasional actor, full-time political commentator, and self-described "national nag" remarks that when he and his friend John F. Kennedy began their respective careers, "we were both unadventurous conservatives interested in personal glory." Anyone who has ever read Burr, Lincoln, or his recent Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta, would be hardpressed to describe the author as a conservative. But Vidal, born in 1925 to a family of means and privilege, comes from a time when the word was synonymous with reticence and moderation rather than the attack-dog frenzy of talk radio and the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal. In the documentary, in which filmmaker Deborah Dickson cen ters on Vidal's public record rather than his private life, he credits the Vietnam War with radicalizing him, as its engineers "were never able to explain it." Vidal has always sought explanations, even when that search has often gotten him into trouble.

Vidal's views on such diverse figures as Lincoln, Jefferson, FDR, JFK, and Timothy McVeigh are examined in the film. But as singular as he may seem, such iconoclasm isn't all that surprising coming from a gay man of his intelligence--even though the ever-contentious Vidal has never cottoned to the word gay.

He was well aware that the publication of his bittersweet same-sex romance The City and and Pillar in 1948 was a considerable career risk, yet he carried on with great success in many genres, particularly the works on history that he framed in fictional form because "I thought a novel would be more realistic and true. …

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