A Conversation with Gore Vidal
25 July 1978 (Tuesday). Dinner at George’s, where Gore Vidal showed up about nine and sat down in a curious hugging crouch in order to hide the fact he has grown fat since the last time we saw him. Otherwise he seems the same in every particular – intelligent, funny and malign in about equal proportion. He lamented the fact no one keeps diaries anymore, implying that all the awful, fascinating detail of life is going to be lost. I suppressed an urge to tell him not to worry – I’d pay him special attention so at least one of his evenings would be recorded. He said he had kept a diary himself for a while when young, but it seemed to be heavy in pensées and complaint.
Vol. 36 No. 17 · 11 September 2014
Thomas Powers captures a classic evening’s conversation with Gore Vidal over dinner in Rome hosted by George Armstrong (LRB, 31 July). When Gore was in Rome accompanied by the faithful Howard and dog, he usually relied on George to provide the casual mise-en-scène for such dinners, often with a curry cooked by Johnson, his improbably named Keralese valet. Though Gore possessed unpleasant character traits and sought to intimidate the assembled company, he was forgiven for being extraordinarily entertaining. George, like Gore, came to Italy to escape the prudish confines of post-war America’s disgust at homosexual leanings. Clever, humorous and quiet, he was for many years the Guardian correspondent in Italy – the opposite of Gore, yet they were firm friends for many years. When George retired to live in New York and fell on hard times, Gore, unasked, generously helped him out, among other things by paying him to type his manuscripts. George died in 2006, this debt to Gore little known. Gore never sought to be seen as kind.