Witty intercourse with the great Gore Vidal

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold

Share
Related Topics
HOW delightful to hear from my old friend and quipping partner Mr Gore Vidal. Mischief-maker and rascal that he is, Gore is also the wittiest and wisest of American ecrivains, and immensely enjoyable company to boot. Needless to say, Gore has not avoided the temptation to reprint his usual untruths about yours truly in his first volume of autobiography, Palimpwrist, published this week.

Yet one must forgive such a fine writer everything. The words "Arnold, Wallace" in the index to the aforesaid volume herald the following entry: "Youthful flirtation with GV, 25; Roars with appreciative laughter at GV's aphorisms, 25-27; secret role in Arms to Iraq, 192; sighting on Grassy Knoll, 242; wholly footling role in the advancement of English letters when measured alongside the towering achievement of GV, 247-252." Let me assure the general reader - and in particular readers of my "Arnold's World of Old-Fashioned British Commonsense in Uniform" column in the Reader's Digest - that not one of Gore's typically wild and flamboyant assertions contains any grounding in fact. Bar one: I have long adored Gore's wicked tongue, my laughter increasing with my knowledge that I am indeed in the presence of a maestro.

To celebrate the launch of Gore's magisterial new tome, a distinguished group of his admirers took him out for an agreeable - if waspish! - luncheon at The Ivy restaurant. The ever-youthful Ned Sherrin was there, along with Sir Roy Strong, the amusing - if a mite leftish! - Mr Christopher Hitchens and that most eminent of anthologists and elder statesman, Mr Kenneth Baker.

We kicked off with oysters, a treat that inevitably prompted a witty - if waspish! - apercu from Ned. "I always say," he chuckled, "that an oyster by any other name is merely - an oyster!!" Needless to say, we all gurgled with pleasure at Ned's effortless bon mot, little realising it would inspire a marvellous tour de force of humour, political insight and honest-to-goodness wisdom from Gore himself.

"Whenever I myself see an oyster, I think of my dear old friend John F Kennedy, that most inveterate and unrepentant of White House womanisers," Gore began with a wry smile, "for whenever I ate oysters with Jack, I would be reminded of how he had risen to power upon my back, in a manner of speaking, and of how he pilfered all his best ideas from his younger and, may I say, rather better-looking Cousin Gore." As Gore smartly wiped the corners of his ever-youthful mouth with the personalised napkin he carries with him everywhere, we prepared for some vintage - if waspish! - Vidalisms.

"For as my dear friend Princess Margaret once remarked to me in a moment of unusual candour: 'Gore, you are positively the cleverest, funniest and best-read man I have ever been lucky enough to meet!' And do you know what I replied? I believe it is in all the standard books of my quotations, but it remains - as dear Jackie O used to say whenever I opened my mouth - always worth repeating. I replied, 'you are astonishingly youthful, ma'am - and most gracious and amusing with it!' "

Bullseye! Gore has a great stock of such gems, all rich in political invective. "This lamb reminds me" he began as our main course arrived, "of the doleful occasion upon which I was forced to remind the - ahem! - Acting President Ronald Reagan that the Pentagon was run by a small cabal of Japanese car-dealers, acting on direct instructions from our old friend, Mr Saddam Hussein, the President of what used to be known as Persia."

While Hitchens busily scribbled down these shimmering insights into our life and times and Ken Baker noted them for his forthcoming Faber Book of Political Satire ("I am happy to say I have included 10 pages of satire against myself by some of the leading lights of the satire movement - one is always so grateful to be mentioned at all," Ken enthused with a delighted grin), Gore continued to charm, bedazzle and amuse us all.

"This creme brulee reminds me," he said, "of my put-down to Norman Mailer in November, 1966. He offered to punch me, and I replied: 'If you follow through your threat, I will tell my good friend Princess Margaret who, I can assure you, Norman, will be most displeased!' "

Delicious! This Sunday morn, pray raise your champagne flutes to the inimitable - if waspish! - Mr Gore Vidal, scourge of the wealthy and famous, and friend of illustrious people, among them Princess Margaret.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own