Simon Kelner: Our mundane world will miss that Vidal spark

Kelner's view

Share
Related Topics

What would Gore Vidal have made of the fact that he was trending on Twitter yesterday? He would surely have been rather pleased: as an arch communicator, and the master of the epigram, he would have recognised the power, relevance and reach of Twitter.

Of course, he would have publicly dismissed it as the solipsistic burbling of a million fools, but many of Vidal's more memorable quotes from a lifetime of political and social commentary were within the parameter of 140 characters. One by one, they were quoted on Twitter yesterday.

Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little. The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so. I never miss a chance to have sex or appear on television. A good deed never goes unpunished. The more money an American accumulates, the less interesting he becomes. And so on.

Then there were the people who said that they'd been entranced – or insulted – by him, or once had a drunken encounter with him in Ravello, the magnificent hilltop town in southern Italy where he spent his latter years. (I don't think it was that difficult to run into Vidal there. I have only once been to Ravello, and on my first day there, I saw him in the main square having breakfast with the actor Woody Harrelson.)

Following the recent death of the writer and journalist Christopher Hitchens, Vidal's demise means there is now a considerable gap in our cultural landscape. In truth, Vidal had not said anything of real substance or perspicacity for some time, and some of his pronouncements post-September 11 would have registered on the barmy-ometer. But he always demanded attention, largely because his was an unusual voice in an era when so much public discourse is mundane and antiseptic.

Quite simply, we don't seem to breed figures like Vidal any more. Who is the heir to his tradition of trenchant commentary? Who will provide intelligent and acerbic insight into the political mores of the day? Where will the bite come from? There are so few credible anti-establishment figures in our lives – even the editor of Private Eye, a satirical and ostensibly subversive magazine, can be found in the Royal Box at Wimbledon – and should someone in public life make an off-colour remark that can in any way be deemed offensive, then all manner of opprobrium descends on him or her.

Judging by recent events, it won't be long before ill-judged comments or a wild accusation become a matter for the police. In the current climate, Vidal's statement that the Bush administration were in on the September 11 attacks would probably result in a visit from the plods.

In recent years, Hitchens and Vidal, once mutually admiring friends, fell out. Hitchens dismissed him as a crackpot, and Vidal said a few years ago: "Hitchens identified himself for many years as the heir to me... Unfortunately for him, I didn't die." And now they're both dead. I have a feeling that we will search in vain for the pungent combination of fearlessness and erudition they embodied.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

An unelectable extremist who hijacked their party has already served as prime minister – her name was Margaret Thatcher

Jacques Peretti
 

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent