Gore Vidal, despite his cantankerous nature (and much to our chagrin), was not Jewish. With his passing yesterday (and the departure of Marc Tracy from Tablet), the amount of intellectual mid-Atlantic inflected accents in our lives is dwindling by the moment. Despite his goyishe background, Vidal did manage to make it into the Tablet catalogue a number of times.
Most recently was in June when Adam Kirsch explored the jarring initiation of John Updike from his decidedly Gentile place like Shillington, Pennsylvania into a literary milieu that was heavily populated by Jews. Updike investigated it ably through his character Henry Bech. Famously, Vidal, did not do it quite so gracefully.
Back in April, Judith Miller reviewed a revival of Vidal’s play “The Best Man” from the 1960s, which featured a take on presidential politics from another era– prior to the major rise of Jewish issues in American politics.
As with his earlier years, Vidal’s later years were marked by controversy, although the latter controversies were marked by a distinct lack of lucidity. In 2009, Liel Leibovitz took Vidal to task for his illogical defense of Roman Polanski.
Also, beyond Tablet, Gore Vidal got the guest treatment from one of comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s alter egos, Ali G. Surprisingly, Vidal was a very good sport about it. In this memorable clip, Ali G and Vidal talk women and history before Ali G confuses Vidal with Vidal Sassoon.
Warning: This clip is not safe for work (or probably home).
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.