Hollywood vs Wash DC

Hollywood, a novel by Gore Vidal.

Did it take me too long to get through this, dear worst-reader? Maybe it didn’t take long enough. Or, perhaps, is this piece of work enough to make me stop in my quest to read (all of) Vidal’s “Narratives of Empire”? Indeed. Four of the seven books are left. And I was bored more than not with this one. But I fought through it–because I felt compelled to do so. I wondered at times if Vidal was just as bored writing it. Nah. A man who can pull this off cannot be bored with what he does. Or? Vidal knows for whom and for what he wrote Narratives. That in and of itself is reason to complete the series. Or maybe not.

This is my third novel from Gore Vidal’s seven book series. What is becoming clear to me is that there is a sincerity, an earnestness to these books. They are more than just fictional histories of #americant through the eyes of someone who knows politics probably better than most. It’s almost as though Vidal is trying to tell Americans something not just about history but also about who and what we are and the world we have to live in. The quest to chronicle a lands history in a concise enough form so that posterity won’t forget it–or, at best–its people won’t leave it behind, is a task to be wondered. Or? Thus far I’ve read Lincoln, Burr, Creation and now Hollywood. Wait. I know. Creation isn’t really part of the Narrative series but somehow, after reading it, I can’t help but think that Vidal wants it to be because, simply, it is a great explanation of the history of humanity pre and post religious nutbaggery, i.e. #americant in the 20th century. But that’s neither here nor there. The real question we are facing, dear worst-reader, is what’s next on the Narrative reading list? Empire, 1876, Washington DC or the Golden Age? Indeed. I’m torn. Oh well.

The one thing that saved (reading) this book for me was an ever growing interest in Vidal’s choice of characters from which to tell this story. Ironically, or maybe not, the best character of the novel isn’t even a real historical figure. For whatever reason Vidal had to make up a few characters. Enter Caroline Sanford. She is both an actress and a newspaper mogul. She is the embodiment of Vidal’s vision linking two geographic points of a fledgling nation. She reminded me somewhat of Dagny of Atlas Shrugged–but only in my imaginative effort to give her a physical presence. As far as the other characters go, it’s easy to look up the presidents, the government officials, the barons and the goons Vidal chronicles. They are all only a wiki-link away. But Caroline? Where did Vidal get this chick? I’ll be wasting hours googling to find out why Vidal created her. But more importantly, she’ll be the reason I probably read “Empire” next as she is featured in that novel, as well. I’m a Caroline Sanford fan.

The historical characters covered in the book, especially the presidents Woodrow Wilson and Warren G. Harding, are only interesting because of how Vidal presents them in the context of (their) political buffoonery. Although I did learn a few things about Wilson, like his stedfast belief in the failed League of Nations, I kept getting the feeling that these figures of #americant history are nothing more than a side-show. The things said, done and committed by the novel’s figures is nothing compared to the intrigue Vidal miraculously achieves by the juxtaposition of Washington DC vs Hollywood. Vidal literally codifies the how and why of entertainment vs politics, all of which has been willfully and consciously merged right underneath the eyes of a puritanical nation of nitwits. This aspect of the story is the unexpected grand achievement of the book. How many people conclude that the connection between these two opposing coastlines would set the stage of #americant for an entire century? Even though it takes Vidal a while to get to Hollywood from the beginning of the book, once there I was hooked. Every time he returned to the east coast, though, I found a way to put the book down–and sometimes I even rushed through the text. California here I come!

All in all, this was a tough read. I really had to battle some of the huge winded chapters and as previously stated, even rush through them and I do not feel as though I missed anything by doing so. I only hope that this was the most winded book of the series. Two other non-Vidal books are in front of Empire so maybe that will give me achance to recupearate form this one. Or maybe I won’t be able to wait that long before getting back to Ms. Sanford.

Some quotes from the novel “Hollywood” by Gore Vidal:

  • “Almost everyone nowadays had two lives, his own and his life at the movies.”
  • “The had used the movies successfully to demonize national enemies. Now why not use them to alter the viewer’s perception of himself and the world.”
  • “Show things the way they are but carefully angled, the way the camera is, to make the audience see what you want them to see.”

 

Rant on. -Tommi

Suicide Eyes

“‘The only freedom that an American has is to conform, as you’ve already discovered.’ Caroline did not in the least mind the disparity between the country’s shining image of itself and the crude reality. She was entirely on the side of the rulers, ridiculous and unpleasant as so many of them were. She felt a certain generalised pity for the people at large, but there was nothing she could do for them except report murders in the press, and commit suicide on the screen–with her eyes wide open.” -Gore Vidal (Caroline Sanford), Hollywood

Not Ending A War

“Without the League (of Nations), there would be another war with Germany within thirty years because of the Carthaginian peace being imposed by the Allies.” / “Europe had a murderous tendency to sink into barbarism, the United States had not yet achieved a civilization from which to fall.” -Gore Vidal, Hollywood

Puzzled By Creation

“I think that I might have done well at banking had I not been so carefully trained to be either a priest nor a warrior. Although I have the Persian noble’s contempt for trade, I lack his passion for war and hunting and drinking to excess. Although I have a priest’s deep knowledge of religion, I am not certain what is true. Although I once heard the voice of the Wise Lord, I confess now in my old age that to hear and to listen are two different things. I am puzzled by creation.” -Gore Vidal, Creation – Book Six – The Passing of the Awesome Royal Glory.

Jacob Obians

Will our Jacobians ever be defeated as the French ones were? -Gore Vidal, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace

Perpetual Sex Disorder

Perpetual War For Perpetual Peace, How We Got to Be So Hated by Gore Vidal

Americans morality has nothing to do with ethics or right action or who ever is stealing what money–and liberties–from whom. Morality is SEX. SEX. SEX. -Gore Vidal in the book mentioned here

The island of Mauritius is cool. It’s also pretty. For worst-writer, it was my first tropical island–or is it sub-tropical? Nomatter. Up to that point I had never seen the crystal turquoise waters of an island or other exotic place. Having grown up on the mid-Altantic coast of the USA with its green and sometimes brown waters, turquoise seemed like a distant and desirable experience. To say the least, I was mesmerized. As beautiful as Mauritius is, though, there is one other thing that I will never forget about the island that has nothing to do with its waters. On a day tour around its north-west coast, on a fifty foot sail boat that sails regularly to and from France, the first mate, a Mauritian, turned to me after hearing I was the only American on board and asked most sincerely and inquisitively: what is the matter with you Americans?

What a question, eh? And now for some, and not enough, context. The Iraq quagmire was in full bloom. With my attitude toward that quagmire I’m not sure I’m the one to answer such a great question. Especially not while sailing on the dreamy turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. But on that day, on that beautiful sail boat, surrounded by Belgians, Frenchman and Germans (allies?), I stood deaf and mute. The mate’s question lingered in my mind (and to this day still does). It was as though I could hear all the destruction at that moment that my beloved country was committing around the world post 2001. Subsequently, after visiting numerous exotic places, mostly enjoying the luxuries of life that I am privileged to afford, I have learned to hide my nationality. Does that mean I am ashamed to be American? Well, maybe. Or let me put it another way. After a while, whether at a hotel in Bangkok or on a dive boat on the red sea, I avoid as best I can being looked down upon as “an American”. I guess learning a second language does have it’s advantages. Even if you can only partly master a second language, it’s enough to hide behind.

With that in mind, now you know, dear worst-reader, why Gore Vidal’s subtitle appeals to me more than the title. First, the title seems to refer to Vidal’s never quenched desire to propel his (or her) reader into realms of history unknown and less understood. Or. Better put. Vidal has the most wondrous knack of making his reader and his listeners feel as though they are kinda stupid. And I don’t mean that in a sly way (like he does). I admire Vidal for his slyness. As I’ve said before, here and here, if you (if anyone) wants to know the history of America because dogma-public schooling taught you snot, read Vidal’s chronicles. And you don’t even have to read them in order. Just pick them out of any second hand book store, like I did, and start reading. (Although now, since I don’t buy physical books unless I have to, I prefer ebook versions which are all reasonably priced.) Things that can be learned from Gore Vidal include but are not limited to our history and our reality and the reason “we” are so hated–even though “Perpetual War For Perpetual Peace” doesn’t quite get to that (musical) note. The book is mostly centered around Timothy McVeigh, Vidal’s correspondence with him and many other quips about (our) empire and those who run it, promote it, spend for it, etc. But you can read all that in the book yourself.

The thing I really want to get at here is, luckily, America’s last great man of letters, who passed in 2012, Gore Vidal, did a lot more writing above and beyond his duty of telling us less mentally endowed (Americans) our own history. If you use the Google you can find a vast amount of all-things-media about Vidal. I especially like the tat-a-tats with his arch enemy William Buckley Jr. Buckley called Vidal a faggot on a televised debate. It was, I think, 1968! Which brings me to my point, what I really want to worst-blog about, and why I picked today’s worst-blog-title.

In all or most of Vidal’s non-fiction that I’ve read so far (which probably isn’t a lot but I’m going with this presumption anyway) there is something that permeates his genius. That something, which Mr. Buckley touched upon in their infamous debate–condescendingly and über-mockingly low-blowing with the utmost choice of descriptors regarding male sexuality–is what Vidal can’t seem to let go. I’m starting to think, since Vidal is of the same pre-war generation as my parents, that America will probably require a lot longer and a lot more than a sexual revolution to get passed what is obviously a symptom to a much larger problem. Obviously sexual repression is rampant in America. But is it part of our DNA? Will we ever be able to breed this thing out! I think Vidal thinks (knows) it is indeed part of us–because it is part of him. According to the work I’ve read so far, it’s most definitely part of him.

The thing is, as we emulate our enemies (and our enemies emulate us) it becomes easier to see the Cain and Abel paradox that is our demise. Something connects us to all that we do to this world–as Americans. One could say that something is religion–and I wouldn’t put up much of a fight to argue it. But there’s one thing that all religion has in common that is both the life and death ticket for us all. Sex. Yeah, baby. Sex. Sex. Sex. Sexuality is something that Vidal–a man who has admitted to being a platonic homosexual–what ever that means–has a serious problem with. Either that or he was completely right when he said that sex was just over-rated.

The chapter “The New Theocrats” begins with the quote at the beginning of this worst-post. SEX. SEX. SEX. Capitalized, baby. Caps because Vidal has something to say, loudly. And then he goes on about a high school girl having a baby during her senior prom and leaving that baby to die in a trash can only to then go about her prom business. This all somehow leads back to Timothy McVeigh who mysteriously hangs out with men-only who all hate the US government and might even be in cohorts with middle eastern terrorists because that was the only way to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City. Now. Does all that mean that Gore Vidal, again, America’s last man of letters, is sex obsessed–just like the rest of sexually repressed America–or is he sincerely interested in getting to the bottom of McVeigh’s horror or, even, why we are so hated around the world?

For this question I have an answer: dunno.

All worst silly-ness aside, this book is worth the read. But to moi, everything from Vidal is worth the read–even that script he wrote which was subsequently gutted by Penthouse founder Bob Guccione. All things said–or missed–this book provides an interesting look/view at the Oklahoma City bombing, the siege at Waco, TX, both of which, to this day, amaze me because they are practically never spoken of unless someone commits some ghastly act of violence in the name of the 2nd amendment, false patriotism, a tea-party–or because Mama didn’t love enough, etc. I guess by writing, researching, thinking about all that stuff, Vidal knows why we are hated. Full stop.

Nomatter.

Vidal does a great job of avoiding all the conspiracy-theory nutbag krapp that is probably the reason so much of what America truly is–is truly never spoken about/of. Or something like that.

Rant on.

-Tommi