This Is It

Gore Vidal, 1992

Because there is no cosmic point to the life that each of us perceives on this distant bit of dust at galaxy’s edge, all the more reason for us to maintain in proper balance what we have here. Because there is nothing else. No thing. This is it. And quite enough, all in all.

Gore Vidal
Armageddon? (1987)
Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia

On Sex and Sublimation

Watercolor by Auguste Rodin: The Devil or Milton (c. 1900)

Sexual energy not used by homosexuals for procreation, as it is by heterosexuals, should be channelized elsewhere where its ends can be creativity.

Harry Hay, 1951

Sex is. There is nothing more to be done about it. Sex builds no roads, writes no novels and sex certainly gives no meaning to anything in life but itself.

Gore Vidal, 1960

Watercolor by Auguste Rodin: The Devil or Milton, c. 1900

On Writing

The Letter

It is a sign of wisdom to recognize one’s own pettiness and not only to surrender vanity to death, which means to take it anyway, but to do so with deliberate grace as exemplar to the young upon whom our race’s fragile continuity, which is all there is, depends. I should have thought that that was why one wrote – to make something useful for the survivors, to say: I was and now you are, and I leave you as good a map as I could make of my own traveling.

Gore Vidal
John Dos Passos at Midcentury (1961)
United States: Essays 1952-1992

Photo by Jan SaudekThe Letter (1975)

Sex Is Politics

Sex and Power

The sexual attitudes of any given society are the result of political decisions. In certain militaristic societies, homosexual relationships were encouraged on the ground that pairs of dedicated lovers (Thebes’ Sacred Legion, the Spartan buddy system) would fight more vigorously than reluctant draftees. In societies where it is necessary to force great masses of people to do work that they don’t want to do (building pyramids, working on the Detroit assembly line), marriage at an early age is encouraged on the sensible ground that if a married man is fired, his wife and children are going to starve, too. That grim knowledge makes for docility.

Although our notions about what constitutes correct sexual behavior are usually based on religious texts, those texts are invariably interpreted by the rulers in order to keep control over the ruled. Any sexual or intellectual or recreational or political activity that might decrease the amount of coal mined, the number of pyramids built, the quantity of junk food confected will be proscribed through laws that, in turn, are based on divine revelations, handed down by whatever god or gods happen to be in fashion at the moment. Religions are manipulated in order to serve those who govern society and not the other way around. This is a brand-new thought to most Americans, whether once or twice or never bathed in the Blood of the Lamb.

Gore Vidal
Sex Is Politics (1979)
United States: Essays 1952-1992

The Myth of the Heterosexual

Marie No. 1

Now it is an underlying assumption of twentieth-century America that human beings are either heterosexual or, through some arresting of normal psychic growth, homosexual, with very little traffic back and forth. To us, the norm is heterosexual; the family is central; all else is deviation, pleasing or not depending on one’s own tastes and moral preoccupations. Suetonius reveals a very different world. His underlying assumption is that man is bisexual and that given complete freedom to love – or, perhaps more to the point in the case of the Caesars, to violate – others, he will do so, going blithely from male to female as fancy dictates. Nor is Suetonius alone in this assumption of man’s variousness. From Plato to the rise of Pauline Christianity, which tried to put the lid on sex, it is explicit in classical writing. Yet to this day Christian, Freudian and Marxian commentators have all decreed or ignored this fact of nature in the interest each of a patented approach to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Gore Vidal
The Twelve Caesars (1952; published 1959)
Collected in United States: Essays 1952-1992

Photo by Jan Saudek: Marie No. 1 (1974)