Victor Davis Hanson Remembers Gore Vidal and John Keegan

Wednesday, August 8, AD 2012



Last week Gore Vidal and John Keegan died.  I recalled John Keegan in a post which may be read here.  Gore Vidal I did not recall.  Although I enjoyed two of Vidal’s novels, Julian and Creation, I could not write a post about him without violating the maxim De mortuis nihil nisi bonum.  Fortunately my favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, does not share that inhibition:

Among those guests in 1964 was Gore Vidal, who was not yet 40. I was about eleven and remember him as a stylishly dressed non-stop hair-toucher. He was also vain and condescending — and a big hit at his lecture with the conservative rural crowd. In those days he acted what was known as “witty.” I recall asking my dad whether he was “English,” given that his nose was angled upward and his accent did not sound American (and that he did not seem to like the U.S.). My dad, in the Swedish fashion of honoring work for work’s sake, answered that I should respect any man who could crisscross the country, giving 30 lectures in 30 days.

Vidal certainly had an instinct for saying outrageous things with such erudite authority that we yokels found him fascinating rather than repulsive. As I remember (it has been 48 years since that evening), Vidal spoke for about 30 minutes, but then he wowed the crowd to a standing ovation in the question-and-answer period (his forte), as he advocated the legalization of drugs and prostitution and went on rants about “small town” values.

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3 Responses to Victor Davis Hanson Remembers Gore Vidal and John Keegan

  • I am a fan of Mr. Hanson, and I am grateful that he wrote this wonderful tribute to John Keegan. Keegan’s books are a joy to read, and should be required in every 11th/12th grade and college history class.

    As for Gore Vidal–an interesting character, but he always seemed shallow to me.

  • This post raised in my esteem both JK and VDH. I am familiar with KJ’s excellent (I am no judge) “Face”, “Mask”, and “Six Armies” books Thanks!

    As for Vidal, “Never speak ill of the dead.” Being older and close to the VN War, I mainly avoided with heavy drinking the TV Buckley and Vidal “debates.” When I saw them, I wished Bill would throttle the man.

    I missed the press release as I was chasing bass and beer in Canada. Thanks for the news of M. Vidal’s demise. It didn’t make Barron’s.

  • Vidal was the single most respected truther in the American left. Who will come out of the closet to replace him? This is the perfect opportunity for some more evolution.