1. Sometimes you learn new things. Christopher Buckley, in his obit of Gore Vidal, offers one likely reason why father William F. Buckley didn’t throw a punch at Vidal in their immortal exchange. He sets the scene:
If you look closely at the footage of the 1968 TV contretemps between WFB and Vidal, you’ll see WFB trying to rise out of his chair at the moment of maximum heat. If you look very closely, you’ll see him physically straining, but something holding him back.
This leaves readers wondering, What exactly was that “something” that held WFB back? Answer:
A few days before, [WFB] was sailing in Long Island Sound when a Coast Guard cutter zoomed past his sailboat, knocking him to the deck, breaking his collarbone. During the Chicago debates, he was wearing a clavicle brace. It’s possible that the brace prevented the moment from being truly iconic.
2. On Real Clear Books today, I linked to this essay by Virginia Heffernan, mostly because I found it so, well, surprising is one word for it. She writes that Vidal was “a virtuoso troll. A 20th-century, pre-Internet troll. An analog troll of the first rank,” and asserts that this is actually a good thing.
3. One less trollish take on Vidal will be no less surprising to some folks because of the venue. The American Spectator republishes this Mitchell Ross review essay of one of Vidal’s books from 1982. That was the year Vidal challenged Jerry Brown for the Dem nomination to replace Senator S.I. Hayakawa, who was “retiring in order to devote more time to his naps.”
Ross praised Vidal’s writing and finally wished him godspeed in his political career. “If elected,” Ross reasoned, Vidal could “talk nonsense to his fellow senators, and, having got that out of the way, he could speak more sensibly to his readers, who, after all, cherished him first, and will cherish him last.”
4. I want to hate on the New Republic for a minute. The magazine’s website introduces Alfred Kazin’s 1992 review of Live from Golgotha, gives you the first three paragraphs and then tucks the rest away under a pay wall. Seriously? Do the editors think that will net them even one more paying customer? This is doubly annoying because TNR is now owned by a Facebook founder who should know better than this. Then again, there’s Timeline.