Quotations by Vidal, Gore


“Liberal” comes from the Latin liberalis, which means pertaining to a free man. In politics, to be liberal is to want to extend democracy through change and reform. One can see why the word had to be erased from our political lexicon.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“America First? America Last? America at Last?,” Lowell Lecture, Harvard University (20 Apr 1992)
Added on 9-Oct-12 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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At least when the Emperor Justinian, a sky-god man, decided to outlaw sodomy, he had to come up with a good practical reason, which he did. It is well known, Justinian declared, that buggery is a principal cause of earthquakes, and so must be prohibited. But our sky-godders, always eager to hate, still quote Leviticus, as if that looney text had anything useful to say about anything except, perhaps, the inadvisability of eating shellfish in the Jerusalem area.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“America First? America Last? America at Last?” Lowell Lecture, Harvard University (20 Apr 1992)
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Added on 13-Nov-12 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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It is the spirit of the age to believe that any fact, no matter how suspect, is superior to any imaginative exercise, no matter how true.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“French Letters: Theories of the New Novel,” Encounter (Dec 1967)
Added on 4-Feb-10 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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We should stop going around babbling about how we’re the greatest democracy on earth, when we’re not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarised republic. The founding fathers hated two things, one was monarchy and the other was democracy, they gave us a constitution that saw to it we will have neither. I don’t know how wise they were.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“Gore Vidal and the Mind of the Terrorist”, interview by Ramona Koval, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (Nov 2001)
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Added on 23-Oct-12 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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First coffee, then a bowel movement. Then the Muse joins me.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“Gore Vidal,” interview by Gerald Clarke (1974)

In The Paris Review Interviews: Writers at Work, 5th series (1981)
Added on 2-Oct-12 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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Envy is the central fact of American life.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“Gore Vidal,” interview by Gerald Clarke (1974), The Paris Review Interviews: Writers at Work, 5th series (1981)
Added on 25-Sep-12 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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In fact, the French — who read and theorize the most — became so addicted to political experiment that in the two centuries since our own rather drab revolution they have exuberantly produced one Directory, one Consulate, two empires, three restorations of the monarchy, and five republics. That’s what happens when you take writing too seriously.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“Lincoln and the Priests of Academe”, United States (1993)
Added on 5-Feb-13 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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The theater needs continual reminders that there is nothing more debasing than the work of those who do well what is not worth doing at all.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“Love Love Love,” Partisan Review (Spring 1959)
Added on 20-Nov-12 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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My father had a deep and lifelong contempt for politicians in general (“They tell lies,” he used to say with wonder, “even when they don’t have to”).

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“On Flying” (1985)
Added on 1-Jan-13 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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That peculiarly American religion, President-worship.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“President and Mrs. U.S. Grant” (1975)
Added on 4-Dec-12 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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At any given moment, public opinion is a chaos of superstition, misinformation, and prejudice.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“Sex and the Law,” Partisan Review (Summer 1965)
Added on 27-Nov-12 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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Religions are manipulated in order to serve those who govern society and not the other way around.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“Sex Is Politics” (1979)
Added on 18-Dec-12 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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The period of Prohibition — called the noble experiment — brought on the greatest breakdown of law and order the United States has known until today. I think there is a lesson here. Do not regulate the private morals of people. Do not tell them what they can take or not take. Because if you do, they will become angry and antisocial and they will get what they want from criminals who are able to work in perfect freedom because they have paid off the police.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“The State of the Union”, Esquire (May 1975)
Added on 6-Nov-12 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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World events are the work of individuals whose motives are often frivolous, even casual.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“The Twelve Caesars,” United States (1993)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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It is reasonable to assume that, by and large, what is not read now will not be read, ever. It is also reasonable to assume that practically nothing that is read now will be read later. Finally, it is not too far-fetched to imagine a future in which novels are not read at all.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“Thomas Love Peacock: The Novel of Ideas” (1980)
Added on 11-Dec-12 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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A narcissist is someone better looking than you are.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“Vidal: ‘I’m at the Top of a Very Tiny Heap,'” by Michiko Kakutani, New York Times (12 Mar 1981)
Added on 16-Oct-12 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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People in my situation get to read about themselves whether they want to or not. It’s generally wrong. Or oversimplified — which is sometimes useful.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“What I’ve Learned,” Interview by Mike Sager, Esquire (Jun 2008)
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Added on 12-Feb-13 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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The average “educated” American has been made to believe that, somehow, the United States must lead the world even though hardly anyone has any information at all about those countries we are meant to lead. Worse, we have very little information about our own country and its past.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“William Dean Howells” (1983)
Added on 8-Jan-13 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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Perfectionist: One who takes infinite pains and gives them to others.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
(Attributed)

In Wilfrid Sheed, "Writer as Wretch and Rat," New York Times Book Review (4 Feb 1973) and in The Sunday Times Magazine, London (16 Sep 1973) ("Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.").
Added on 2-Feb-10 | Last updated 2-Oct-12
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Every four years the naive half who vote are encouraged to believe that if we can elect a really nice man or woman President everything will be all right. But it won’t be.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
The Decline and Fall of the American Empire (1992)
Added on 15-Jan-13 | Last updated 15-Jan-13
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As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
The Decline and Fall of the American Empire (1992)
Added on 22-Jan-13 | Last updated 22-Jan-13
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Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head. Shakespeare has perhaps twenty players, and Tennessee Williams has about five, and Samuel Beckett one — and maybe a clone of that one. I have ten or so, and that’s a lot. As you get older, you become more skillful at casting them.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
Time (17 Apr 1978)
Added on 27-Aug-15 | Last updated 27-Aug-15
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Don’t ever make the mistake with people like me thinking we are looking for heroes. There aren’t any and if there were, they would be killed immediately. I’m never surprised by bad behaviour. I expect it.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
Times of London (30 Sep 2009)
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Added on 30-Oct-12 | Last updated 30-Oct-12
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The dramatic art is particularly satisfying for any writer with a polemical bent; and I am at heart a propagandist, a tremendous hater, a tiresome nag, complacently positive that there is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
Visit to a Small Planet and Other Television Plays, Preface (1956)
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Added on 28-Jan-20 | Last updated 30-Jan-20
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We’re the most captive nation of slaves that ever came along. The moral timidity of the average American is quite noticeable. Everybody’s afraid to be thought in any way different from everyone else.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
What I’ve Learned (2008)
Added on 19-Feb-13 | Last updated 19-Feb-13
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