Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Gore Vidal - and that dreaded Anaïs Nin horoscope

Gore Vidal in the 1940s
Now that he's dead at long last - 86 is not bad for a prodigious boozer - I can't think of much to say of him. He (mainly) said it all. By 1989, when I interviewed Gore Vidal in a London hotel, he was already spreading rumours of his imminent death, and publicised an exotic-sounding likely cause called Epstein-Barr. References to this ME-type illness had dropped off by the early 2000s as the dilatory grim reaper paid visits to other parts of his person. Mainly via a whisky glass so far as I could tell.

A fussed and fussy short, thickset man (his long-term 'companion' Howard Austen) had answered the hotel door and ushered me into a sitting room where GV joined me promptly. A fat edited manuscript of his poor novel Hollywood lay on a table. We soon fell out. I made the mistake of mentioning the horoscope his one-time close friend Anaïs Nin had cast for him, with its very acute character analysis. Oh deary me. GV didn't sulk but he bitched big-time. The cold, sharp comments fell as if an ice bucket had been upturned on the hotel's creamy coloured shag.

Despite this, in my subsequent write-up I found myself observing that Great Britain did not have a Gore Vidal: no equivalent figure ticked all his boxes - a literary star with the Hollywood-imported glamour who was also a TV talking-head and gossip column favourite - all rendered shinier by the Kennedy and other aristocratic family connections, the Ravello swallow's nest palace and the self-reported 1000 fuckees (a few women, mostly men) by the age of 25. (He had a taste for small male dancers, apparently.)

The nearest non-American GV-simulacrum was a composite of Martin Amis, Clive James, Germaine Greer and Duncan Fallowell. But no one else had all that he had. They were facets of his self-crafted diamond.

So, what of Anaïs Nin and her horoscope? To discover her and it, seek out The Journals of Anaïs Nin (Volume Four 1944-1947) and head for pp 132-133. In her non-astrological character sketch of GV, then just around aged 20 and already on the cusp of writer-celebrityhood, she describes a man largely unchanged 60 years later: 'He mocks his world,' she wrote, 'but draws strength from being in the Social Register, from his friends' high position.... I was saddened by his vanity, his display of position. He was partly dependent on worldly attributes. Terribly in need of glorification. I saw his persona in the world. It was another Gore.'

The horoscope analysis is worth reading, too. A brief gist: 'He is not satisfied with power... what balances him is the power to rebel against authority. Emotional rebellions offset the power-loving side. Mystical unconscious.'

I recall Duncan Fallowell's shrewd observation of GV - blessed with a tremendous sense of mischief, unusual in a successful man. I don't think Anaïs picked up on that.

For further reflection on GV, go to Ms Baroque's rather glorious site. Click here.

Lively interview with Gore Vidal at his old villa in Ravello, La Rondinaia (Swallow's Nest) with some lovely interior snooping


Ms Baroque said...

Brilliant, Mme A. xx

Ms Baroque said...

I've linked you:

Madame Arcati said...

Thank you Ms B. I think the late GV is doing pretty well in the blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant piece MA. Thank God you're back!

Hitch (RIP) said...

If only Vidal had died 25 years ago, his reputation would be intact now. Sadly he lived on to see Timothy McVeigh and 9/11 and his sophisticated heresies turned into crude and mad conspiracy theories.