US writer Gore Vidal was gay, but stubbornly refused to be defined by sexuality. There was no shame about his love life, but the author of The Best Man did not want to be pinned down with imprecise labels.
‘To be categorized is, simply, to be enslaved,’ he said in a 1995 Advocate magazine interview. ‘Watch out. I have never thought of myself as a victim…I’ve said – a thousand times? – in print and on TV that everyone is bisexual.’
A new documentary, Gore Vidal: United States of Amnesia, opens this weekend (24 May) in Los Angeles and New York City. Directed by Nicholas Wrathall, the film traces the writer’s life until his death in 2012.
Wrathall was interviewed by the site The Backlot. While appreciating Vidal’s skills as a writer, the director was drawn to him for other reasons.
‘…My interest was always sort of more, I guess, less about him as a writer and more about him as a sort of public intellectual and a critic of American politics and culture,’ Wrathall said in The Backlot interview.
‘And just as this sort of brave voice that could speak truth to power,’ he continued. ‘Someone that grew up an insider in the political world who was speaking out against it, sort of a very valuable insight that a perspective that most people won’t have the privilege of having.’
This willingness to ‘speak truth to power’ put Vidal in numerous public spats with intellectuals, including conservative thinker William F. Buckley.
In a famous 1968 television debate Vidal called Buckley a ‘crypto-Nazi.’ Buckley replied with ‘you queer’ and threatened to ‘sock’ Vidal in the face.
US culture critic Junior at Juice with Junior spoke to Gay Star News about legacy of the man who wrote The City and the Pillar and historical American novels like Lincoln.
‘The thing that made him famous was all of the things he did, from screenplays, novels, essays, screenplays, and public battles with other luminaries,’ Junior said. ‘Vidal never shied away from being himself even if people, including the gay community did not like it.’
‘He was part of a tradition of public intellectuals, who fiercely argued ideas on the television screen, page, and radio,’ Junior added.
Below is the film’s trailer. On 6 June it will be released in other cities.