Dery on Gore Vidal, "The Last Roman"

Over at Thought Catalog, the inimitable Mark Dery presents an epic appreciation for the late Gore Vidal.

 2012 08 Gore-Vidal-Dead His perennial subject was the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, and his commentaries on it constituted one long poison-pen elegy for American democracy, delivered with that patented blend of amused hauteur and oracular self-assurance. The small, what-fools-these-mortals-be smile he managed at the decline of Our Fair Republic (for him, it had been declining from the day it was founded) made mock of any dreams of social justice we might entertain.

Little surprise, then, that he wasn’t to everyone’s taste. In “Mr. Gore: Unpatriotic Vidal” (The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to America), Martin Amis found his brick-thick novels hard going, took a dim view of his militant heterophobia (Vidal was bisexual), marveled at the virulence of his anti-Americanism, and raised a wry eyebrow at his pose, on the page, as “the only grown-up in America,” his tone “that of a super evolved stellar sage gazing down on the globe in pitying hilarity.” (Amis did concede, however, that Vidal was “probably” — I can just see the Cicero of the Small Screen pursing his lips at the weasel word — “the cleverest book-reviewer in the world.”)

"The Last Roman: What Gore Vidal Taught Us"


  1. Thanks for this introduction to Mark Dery. It’s good to see Alain de Botton is becoming more relevant with age… While I enjoyed reading about the marvelous Gore Vidal, I can’t help wishing Vidal had written the essay.

    Other fun moments in it:
    – “The trick, in a mass culture consumed by consumption, is to have your Kirk hermeneutics and clear some space for the sort of discourse where the nature of Caesar’s character is what passes for chitchat and the chitchatters walk around with their footnotes hanging out.”
    – “the hog wallow of our political process”

    1. Botton is a drooling, middle-brow dullard. His only relevance is to serve as a warning of our possible torpid cultural destiny.

  2. After having read his books for decades and thoroughly enjoying him and Wm. F. Buckley doing battle on ABC (check U-Tube) at the time of the 1968 conventions, I got to talk to him alone as he was making his exit to go to the next interview on his book tour. I rattled off some titles. His face fell. “They’re all out of print.” I should hope  e publishing will keep that from happening to any author.

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