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A Vicious Narcissus

by Roger Kimball

On the career of Gore Vidal

The novelist and fantasist Gore Vidal, who died last month at 86, must ever occupy a special place in the hearts of National Review’s extended family. I hasten to add that by “special” I do not mean honored, cherished, or affectionate. On the contrary. The critical Vidal moment came in the summer of 1968. The place: Chicago. The festival: the Democratic National Convention. The weather: partly cloudy with a high chance of riots.

If you are reading this, you probably know the story. WFB and Gore Vidal had both been asked by ABC, at that time an important television network, to comment on the proceedings. The chemistry between them was not pacific. The streets of Chicago were exploding with demonstrations “against the war” — against, as WFB observed, the orderliness that civilization requires. Vidal thrilled to the anarchistic spectacle of it all. “They were absolutely well behaved,” quoth he. Reality check: They were attempting to raise the Vietcong flag in a public park, taunting the police, and chanting “F*** LBJ! F*** Mayor Daley!” WFB was not amused: “I’m for ostracizing people who egg on other people to shoot American marines and American soldiers.”

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