Simon Kelner: Our mundane world will miss that Vidal spark

Kelner's view

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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Nick Clegg (R) Liberal Democrat Leader and former leader Charles Kennedy MP, joined the general election campaign trail on April 8, 2010  

Charles Kennedy: The only mainstream political leader who spoke sense

Tim Farron
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her in Latakia
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report