Monday, May 26, 2008

Amuse-gueule

At the Guardian, John Campbell on Gore Vidal. An interesting side note here:
In both his volumes of memoirs (the second, Point to Point Navigation, was published in 2006), and repeatedly in conversation, Vidal makes the claim that he was forced into writing for big and small screens, and for the stage, because of a deliberate campaign on the part of the New York Times to obliterate him as a novelist. The policy began when he revealed himself to be what he ironically calls "a degenerate", by writing The City and the Pillar (1948), one of the first American novels to have homosexual longing - Vidal's preferred term is "same-sex" - at its centre.

"If you didn't appear in the daily New York Times, you were non-existent. Every other journal, including Time and Newsweek, followed its lead. And that is what drove me into television, Broadway and the movies. It is fascinating how few people believe that the Times would do such a thing." Norman Mailer, he says, suffered a similar neglect. "That's why we were friends at the beginning, though we didn't remain so. I think he affronted them much more than I did, because it is a Jewish newspaper and he was one of the glories of Jewish literature at that point. But they were so prissy. They just savaged him." Vidal got his own back by writing three popular mysteries under the name of Edgar Box, "that were glowingly reviewed in the Times".

Many people have doubted Vidal's claims about the Times - one reason why he continues to make them - but a senior source connected with the literary side of the paper, who wished to remain anonymous, told me: "I think this particular claim of Vidal's - unlike many - is entirely plausible. All through the Rosenthal era [AM Rosenthal was executive editor during the late 70s and 80s], the Times did indeed pursue secret agendas when it came to writers, blacklisting some, unreasonably favouring others."
Also: Robert Chalmers has a rather mesmerizing long interview with Vidal at the Independent.

2 comments:

  1. I used to take that stuff about a Times vendetta against Vidal with a grain of salt. But I grew up reading Walter Clemons's book reviews in Newsweek in the '70s and '80s. And I just recently learned that Clemons worked at the Times in the 1960s and was on the verge of being made head book critic, and that apparently he left after he was denied the post because somebody broke it to A. M. Rosenthal that Clemons was gay. Ironically enough, years later, Clemons was contracted to write Vidal's "official" biography but died without completing the job (which he signed over to Fred Kaplan).

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