One night, I went on a boat trip down the Bosporus with about a dozen models, fashionistas, several transvestites, someone who appeared to be wearing a beekeeper’s outfit as a form of daily wear, the editor of Dazed and Confused Jefferson Hack, and Franca Sozzani, the editor of Italian Vogue. We were in the European capital of culture, but it was like a fabulous night at the London club Kinky Gerlinky transferred to Istanbul and financed by the Turkish Ministry of Culture. At one end of the boat, in his wheelchair, was Gore Vidal. At the other end was V.S. Naipaul. It must have been June 2010 because I remember catching Frank Lampard’s ‘ghost goal’ against Germany on a TV in the hotel lobby just before we dashed out.
Pugilistic, provocative: when was the late Gore Vidal not up for a fight? He and Norman Mailer famously fought – in public, in private. Mailer head-butted Vidal just before the two men appeared on the Dick Cavett Show in 1971. 'You're a liar and a hypocrite,' Mailer told Vidal once the programme had begun. Six years later, Mailer knocked Vidal to the floor at a party in New York. 'Once again words fail Norman Mailer,' Vidal said, before he got up. 'He was very kind when I was in a lot of trouble,' Mailer said of Vidal a decade later as the two headed towards reconciliation, or accommodation. 'Gore is a most avuncular fellow. Then we broke. If I ever see him again I will smash him. Still, he and I are in some way bound together, like a bad marriage.'
Amazon.com has branded James Baldwin'sGiovanni's Room, Gore Vidal'sThe City and the Pillar, Jeanette Winterson's Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and thousands of other books with gay characters as 'adult' – and not in the sense that Virginia Woolf had in mind when she said Middlemarch was 'one of the few English novels written for grown-up people'. One consequence of this is that they don't get to have a 'sales rank', so they can't appear near the top of bestseller lists, so people are less likely to see them and buy them.