The Wit of Gore Vidal


Eugene Luther Gore Vidal (1925 – 2012) was an American writer born into a political family with a grandfather who had served as United States senator. Vidal’s principal subject was the history of the United States and its degeneration into an empire. His essays were published in The Nation, the New Statesman, the New York Review of Books, and Esquire magazines. In his novels, Vidal explored the nature of corruption. His third novel, The City and the Pillar (1948), was considered offensive by conservative book reviewers because of its presentation of a male homosexual relationship. Vidal also wrote historical novels and social satire and his work displays a sharp wit, as the following small sample of quotes reveal:

'The idea of a good society is something you do not need a religion and eternal punishment to buttress; you need a religion if you are terrified of death.’

'The unfed mind devours itself.'

'You can't really succeed with a novel anyway; they're too big. It's like city planning. You can't plan a perfect city because there's too much going on that you can't take into account. You can, however, write a perfect sentence now and then. I have.’

'How marvellous books are, crossing worlds and centuries, defeating ignorance and, finally, cruel time itself.'

'Write what you know will always be excellent advice for those who ought not to write at all. Write what you think, what you imagine, what you suspect!'

'Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half.'

'I have always regarded as a stroke of good fortune that I was not born or brought up in a small American town; they may be the backbone of the nation, but they are also the backbone of ignorance, bigotry, and boredom, all in vast