The Demise of a Wine Blogger’s Hero
I’ve been attempting to understand the meaning of Gore Vidal’s death since the unhappy day I was confronted with his demise. I get the sense that Gore’s death may mark either the finish of a writer who I loved reading and related to or it may mark the end of an important chapter in American letters. Either way, a great inspiration for this writer has been lost.
I don’t know much about Vidal’s relationship with wine, other than he drank it. However, we do know that he minced no words concerning the relationship between alcohol and other great American writers.
“In this century, it would be safe to say that a significant percent of American writers are to a greater or lesser degree alcoholics and why this should be the case I leave to the medicine men. Alcoholism ended the careers of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner, to name three fashionable novelists of our mid-century. Out of charity toward the descendants and keepers of the still flickering flames of once glorious literary figures, I shall name no other names. Heavy drinking stopped Hemingway from writing anything of value in his later years; killed Fitzgerald at forty-five; turned the William Faulkner of As I Lay Dying into a fable.”
And it appears there is a near-irony in Vidal re-hashing this troubled connection between other great men of letters and alcohol as it is reported by Michael Mewshaw in the Washington Post that in his later years, Gore drank heavily and apparently didn’t care who saw him drunk and snarly.
The fact is Gore Vidal was well known to be incredibly capable of being petty, vicious and unforgiving…and being so publicly and in print. It lost him a lot of friends and it’s interesting to speculate whether he cared.
In fact, what’s clear is that upon Vidal’s death, many commentators chose to speculate about him and particularly the psychic forces that made him not only a great writer but also a character of extremes, self reverential and one that clearly experienced a bitter, personal decline in his later years.
None of this I care about. When I think about, read or consider Gore Vidal, what I see is a writer and thinker of remarkable courage in whom I find great inspiration. More than anything, I wish I possessed one-tenth of his talent as a writer. Vidal focused on some of the most unpopular ideas in American culture: He derided America’s adherence to Monotheism. He brazenly threw America under the racist bus. He flaunted his homosexuality when it was decidedly not cool to do so. He made political idiots into textual clowns, despite them having achieved the adoration of a large swath of the country’s body politic. And he did all this with precise and shockingly perfect prose.
Though I did not agree with all his positions., I could not wait to read how he expressed them.
In the “who-among-the-dead-would-you-invite-to-a-dinner-party” game. Gore Vidal is now high atop my list. I wonder if he would possess any really good nuggets to pass on to me when I asked him how best to represent one’s ideas in writing and if he would be willing to actually pass them on. I know he’d be happy that I revere him, being the ego-manic he was.
The point though, I think, is this: Those who try to write well must have heroes. Even wine bloggers.