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If you like Gore Vidal's story, you might also like:
Joan Didion,
David Herbert Donald,
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Nadine Gordimer,
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and Tom Wolfe

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Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal
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Gore Vidal Interview (page: 5 / 8)

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  Gore Vidal

The question that could arise in the minds of some aspiring writers is, "How do you get started? How do you go about writing?"

Gore Vidal: I remember being present when a Jesuit priest in Rome asked Tennessee Williams, "How do you write a play?" and Tennessee said, "Well, I start with a sentence." Well, I start with a sentence, and that's how you write a book.

Have you ever suffered from writer's block?

Gore Vidal: No. I always tell people who say they are suffering from it, "Be grateful. You are lucky. You don't have to do it, because you're not a writer." Writers don't get this unless their brains go or they're very ill or something. I think circumstances can drive them to being dried up, but no real writer ever gets that way. There are just some of them that have been kind enough not to go on writing all the time. Those, I honor beyond belief!

No self-doubt, no fear of failure?

Gore Vidal Interview Photo
Gore Vidal: All life is a failure since you are going to die. Why be afraid of it? That's part of the contract.

Writers, among others, are subject to criticism. How do you handle that criticism?

Gore Vidal: I became a critic. Attack me and I will have your head. You must defend yourself. By and large, it isn't worth it most of the time, when you think about who the critic is. If somebody I respected were to attack me, yes, I would be upset, somebody whose opinion I valued. But if you don't value the opinion of some unknown journalist, why should it bother you? It's like being bothered by the daily astrological signs.

You have never been shy about offering your own opinions and your own points of view, and often that leads to controversy. How do you handle controversy in your life and career?

Gore Vidal: Obviously I love it. I would not evoke it if I didn't. The unexamined life is not worth living said Socrates, allegedly. One's job as a writer is to examine the world around him. If that causes distress, so much the worse for those distressed.

Does a day go by when you are not writing? Is it something you have to do every day?

Gore Vidal: No, I don't have to do it. I have slowed down with age, and I don't think I can ever go back to those long novels that I wrote, all that history.

When you were writing those novels, or working in television or when you're writing essays or commentaries, when all of this stuff is coming out of you, did you have a routine? Is it important to stick to one?

Gore Vidal: It's best to start writing when you wake up in the morning, or afternoon, or whenever it is you wake up. Just start then, because you are closer to the dream state than at any other time in the day, which means the imagination is really working on all cylinders, and it means that whatever it is that manufactures sentences in your head is very fresh, and you have all kinds of slants on things that by the end of the day you won't have, or you will just lose along the way. Further advice I have not.

How would you describe the writer's life?

Gore Vidal: Mine has been very interesting.

I have lived in the world and taken part in many things outside myself. The problem with most American writers is they only write about themselves, and they're not very interesting. I don't care about why the marriage went wrong and why the author left his wife for the au pair girl when he did not get tenure at Ann Arbor, which really broke his heart. I mean these books should be written on Kleenex and disposed of. But everybody's been told in the United States that he is interesting. "You are a very interesting person. I can just tell!" or "My feelings are just as good as your feelings." Well, that is a fairly true statement, but what's a feeling? We all have feelings and most of them are not worth dealing with. It's what you know, it's what you think, and if you have the gift of invention, very rare may I say, it's what you make up.

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What is a novelist's role in society, relationship to society?

Gore Vidal: It changes. I would say it's almost nonexistent now.

People have stopped reading novels. TV and video games have taken the place where novels were once. When I was young, everybody read them. Now it seems hardly anybody does. Publishers are screaming, but they've contributed a great deal to the collapse of the novel as a popular art form. They publish too many bad books. They've overpublished all sorts of things, and then they're surprised when nobody wants their wares, but that's a business decision, which has nothing to do with a creative one.

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This page last revised on Apr 04, 2011 09:00 EST
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