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: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exceptional opportunity has arisen for a pa...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jeb Bush's campaign will emphasise both his conservative record as a former governor of Florida and his commitment to building a more inclusive Republican Party  

American democracy is up for sale, and it’s a warning to us all

Shirley Williams
Pupils arrive at school with their parents at the start of a new school year  

School-run parents: be careful – very careful – what you wish for

Grace Dent
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border