A crowd of 600 or so -- minus a few before the evening was over -- went to the Blue Metropolis Festival, an annual literary gathering in Canada to hear Gore Vidal being provocative. Vidal, now 85 years old, travels by wheelchair. He has always been one of the more controversial figures in American letters -- but always interesting. And he has managed to outlive some of his most hated opponents (Bill Buckley, anyone?) Of late Vidal has engaged in a feud with his former literary heir, Christopher Hitchens (in the pages of Vanity Fair, which used to publish them both). He has turned up the volume of his rhetoric about what he sees as the wrong turn that America has taken. From Rabble:
"Vidal spared no lash of the tongue for the United States and declared, 'The American narrative that the U.S. gives aid through support and money to the nations of the world has been a lie since World War II.'
"On the extent of the American Empire, Vidal declared, 'the world should be grateful we ran out of gas; the American Empire will be little more than a footnote of history.' Then, in his best Texas-drawl, the 85-year-old Vidal paunched his jaw and explained 'I'm a war-time president," in tribute to George Bush, whose Republican Party Vidal proclaims has become an 'openly fascist party.'
"... The most revealing moment arose when Vidal told the audience how he sees himself and his life when he pauses to reflect. Quite simply, Vidal told the hushed crowd he has dedicated his life to the study of history.
"'My life has been a study of history. How we screwed up the United States step-by-step from the Revolution in 1776 to President Obama today. We were borne out of an uprising of tax offenders whose attitudes can be summed up by Ben Franklin's belief that ‘Good ideas fail because of the corruption of the people' and it doesn't get any better from there.'"
Vidal's final study of history, on the Mexican-American War -- covering roughly the period between where Burr ends and Lincoln begins -- concludes his American Chronicle historical novels.