Gore Vidal (1925-2012)

Gore Vidal's United States of fury , em The Independent (2009)

In Russian, the phrase "gore vidal" means "he has seen grief". As Gore Vidal is wheeled towards me across an empty London hotel lobby, it seems for the first time like an apt translation. In the eight years since I saw him last, he has lost his partner of 50 years, most of his friends, most of his enemies, and the use of his legs. The man I met then – bristling with his own brilliance, scattering witticisms around like confetti – has withered. His skin is like parchment, but the famous cheekbones are still sharp beneath the crags. "It is so cold in here," he says, by way of introduction. "So fucking cold."

Gore Vidal is not only grieving for his own dead circle and his fading life, but for his country. At 83, he has lived through one third of the lifespan of the United States. If anyone incarnates the American century that has ended, it is him. He was America's greatest essayist, one of its best-selling novelists and the wit at every party. He holidayed with the Kennedys, cruised for men with Tennessee Williams, was urged to run for Congress by Eleanor Roosevelt, co-wrote some of the most iconic Hollywood films, damned US foreign policy from within, sued Truman Capote, got fellated by Jack Kerouac, watched his cousin Al Gore get elected President and still lose the White House, and – finally, bizarrely – befriended and championed the Oklahoma bomber, Timothy McVeigh.

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