Saturday, June 23, 2018

A man without limits is not without wanting

Image may contain: textVidal is alternately over rated and under rated as a novelist, but it is his genius as an essayist that will cement his reputation in place. Literature, politics, films, theater, social custom--his was the work of the true public intellectual, considering trends, ideas , schemes that effect the social body.It's easy to think Vidal likes a certain amount of humanity in his scouring of the culture , but I think that might be one of his blessings. 

He does not, over all, pad his essays about literature, film or other cultural phenomenon with an expected Liberal Arts tic of insisting that what he's inspecting is an advancement . Instead of rose colored glasses, he prefers coated in Crisco. On politics I think he is rather bloodless and elevated in his No pronouncements--at some point it seems he felt he had to out do WF Buckley for patrician airs, but from the Left. 

It's essays on literature I find rewarding over and over and over again as I go to him for judgments from a man who is well read and who regards the writing of fiction to be something of a sacred trust , owing to art but finally meant to present readerships with complicated tales of complicated, comic, tragic characters in hairy times , folks whose tales help readerships experience something new and provoke to think outside their comfort zones. He was cranky in this regard, and its here I find a fiery advocate for the well written novel.

His prose style is perfect for his essays, especially his literary cave diving, but his fiction wordage is High Competence . Not horrible, not awkward, occasionally evocative, but rather flat so far as euphony is concerned. He is a good novelist, not a great one, a professional writer who, though not a genius, has written some masterpieces . I would say Burr, 1876 and Lincoln are in that arena. He wrote things, many things, that are just exercises, novels he wrote as though to win a bet. I have always found his satire to be mean, smug and fatally unfunny.

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