Academy of Achievement Logo
Achiever Gallery
   + [ The Arts ]
  Public Service
  Science & Exploration
  My Role Model
  Recommended Books
  Academy Careers
Keys to Success
Achievement Podcasts
About the Academy
For Teachers

Search the site

Academy Careers


If you like Gore Vidal's story, you might also like:
Joan Didion,
David Herbert Donald,
Carlos Fuentes,
Nadine Gordimer,
Khaled Hosseini,
John Irving,
Norman Mailer,
W.S. Merwin,
James Michener,
Joyce Carol Oates,
Amy Tan,
John Updike
and Tom Wolfe

Gore Vidal can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center

Related Links:
Paris Review
American Masters
Univ. of Pittsburgh
Gore Vidal FAQs

Share This Page
  (Maximum 150 characters, 150 left)

Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal
Profile of Gore Vidal Biography of Gore Vidal Interview with Gore Vidal Gore Vidal Photo Gallery

Gore Vidal Interview (page: 4 / 8)

National Book Award

Print Gore Vidal Interview Print Interview

  Gore Vidal

You got bad reviews for The City and the Pillar after the good reviews for your first book. Why was that?

Gore Vidal: It was a book about the absolute normality of "same-sexuality," as it was sometimes called. Remember, I spent all my life not only in boys' schools, but here I am stuck in three years of the Army. I knew exactly what went on in the real world. It was Walt Whitman who said, "No one will ever know what goes on in armies." Everybody thought it was the bloodshed and so on. Whitman was after different game. I knew what went on in the real world, and I thought, well, nobody would write about it.

[ Key to Success ] Courage

Certainly not in America, up to that point.

Gore Vidal: No, certainly not in a favorable way, although I am pretty nonjudicial.

All the people who had praised my war novel were suddenly hysterical over this book, and I responded in kind, being brought up by the Gores, sharp-tongued and quite mean-minded as I get angry, and I am quite for fighting back. I have conducted an absolute feud with The New York Times for 50 years, because of what they did to that book and to me. They're not doing very well these days, I'm happy to report from the front.

You must have known that you were inviting controversy if not worse.

Gore Vidal: Well no, I'm not exactly stupid, but at the same time, I didn't realize how stupid they were.

You were writing a serious literary work on a subject that hadn't been touched on before.

Gore Vidal: Well, it had been touched on before. After all, there was Proust. All sorts of great writers had dealt with it, but always in a peripheral way. All you have to do is spend three years in the Army. There is nothing you don't learn about that subject, among other things. It seemed to me something that needed doing.

I suspect at a very early age that one of the things I most disliked in the world was a dishonesty and hypocrisy. Since the United States is firmly based on both, I had a rich subject, my native land, and certain taboo subjects were obviously going to interest me. Why, of all the founding fathers, did I pick Aaron Burr to write a book about? Well, I thought it was time that his point of view was expressed, because he is very interesting about the founding of the country.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

How did that affect your career as a young novelist?

Gore Vidal: It was not a brilliant move, no, but I attracted a large audience in many countries aside from the U.S., and then I went to television to make a living. The New York Times didn't care what was on television. I finally came back to the novel with Julian, and I have been a novelist ever since.

You mentioned going into television to make a living, which raises a point. What does a novelist have to do to survive in this world?

Gore Vidal: You write plays for live television, if there is such a thing. It had just come into being in the early '50s.

I wrote a play for something called Studio One, which was CBS. That did well, and then, I wrote 20 more plays. Hollywood beckoned. I was the last contract writer at MGM. I didn't need the money by then, I was just doing it to see what a great studio was like, because I knew the studio system was about to vanish from the earth. It's like observing the troglodytes at home, and it was fascinating. By then I was on Broadway with plays. I've supported myself by writing all my life.

You left out the mystery books.

Gore Vidal: No, you left them out.

Gore Vidal Interview, Page: 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   

This page last revised on Apr 04, 2011 09:00 EST
How To Cite This Page