Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Pity and the Pillar

By Dan Hagen
Just finished Gore Vidal’s “The City and the Pillar,” a novel to which I should have treated myself years ago. But I probably wasn’t ready to read it then.
Gore Vidal
The book is beautiful, bleak and honest in its closely observed, flatly written descriptions of oddly familiar types in an unfamiliar era, the 1930s and 1940s.
Vidal suffered a lot of slings and arrows just for writing it, and shrugged them off pretty bravely even at a young age. He lost all chance at the political future he’d wanted, and saw his books banned from being reviewed in the New York Times, simply because his dim but decently direct protagonist was gay. Watching all this receding in the rear-view mirror of the 21st century, the cowardly, brute injustice of it all couldn’t be clearer.
Vidal is a writer with whom I have had an ambivalent reader relationship over the decades, but I find myself finally and completely on his side. Deeply cynical, he can nevertheless be as cleanly honest as a steaming hot shower.
"He's a man who looks constantly at the truth with such cold eyes that every often he gets at the truth and then he's not afraid of writing about it or being written," said his friend Judith Calvino. "He's courageous. He was always like that. A man of dangerous attraction."

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