Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Gore Vidal , 1925-2012: Vile Anti-Semite and Left Wing Fantasist Leaves The Building

Writer Gore Vidal died yesterday in Hollywood at 86, and the fact that the left is gushing over him is quite a giveaway. Pravda-on-the-Hudson's description of him as 'the elegant, acerbic all-around man of letters who presided with a certain relish over what he declared to be the end of American civilization' might be true. But he was also a vile, caustic human being, an overt and outspoken anti-semite and left wing conspiracy theorist who hated his country and expressed it frequently.

To give you an idea of the man's true flavor, here's his comment on the the thirteen-year-old rape victim Roman Polanski drugged and sodomized in Jack Nicholson's hot tub: “I really don't give a [expletive]. Look am I going to sit and weep every time a young hooker feels as though she's being taken advantage of?”

Talented writer? Yeah, when he was writing fiction. But a miserable human being in many ways who's now left the building.

Below is his encounter with William F. Buckley, where Buckley took exception to Vidals' championing of the Viet Cong ( who were not only committing massive terrorism against their own people, but shooting at our troops) and calling Buckley a 'crypto-Nazi' :

If anything, Vidal was far closer to being a fascist in the true sense than Buckley ever came close to being.



Roland said...

Wagner was an even worse person and hated Jews with a ferocity that extended beyond reason. But both Wagner and Vidal left our world a much better place. This is not the first time, nor will it be the last time, that we've had to separate the art from the artist. Trash him all you want, but today is a day to celebrate his enormous contributions to our culture.

Rob said...

I'm afraid I don't agree with you.

When an artist engages in politics, he becomes a politician, and both of the men you mention did exactly that.

In many cases, it is possible to still enjoy the art but once certain lines are crossed, endorsing the art becomes, de facto, endorsing the politics.

Gore Vidal wrote some credibly good novels, but to focus on those and not on the man ( which is exactly what the obits in the leftist press are doing)is to give someone who was a deeply flawed and at times heartless human being a pass.

One can also make a credible argument ( and here, Wagner comes to mind) that the art that certain people make helps create a certain mindset in enough of the people it appeals to that rather than 'enriching' our culture, it debases it,and that perhaps it just might have been better if it had never existed.

Certainly the Jews whom were massacred man woman and child to the strains of 'Siegfried' and 'Die Walk├╝re' might be forgiven for thinking so, if they were able to express an opinion.

I do not listen to Wagner( or Richard Strauss, another avid Nazi) in my home or car, nor would I attend a concert featuring their work.

Vidal is not quite in the same category, but a great deal of his work, especially his non-fiction is likewise best avoided because it debases rather than elevates, in my opinion.

As I said, once an artist becomes a politician, they can no longer claim the protective mantle of 'artist'

Roland said...

First, I don't know who told you that Strauss was an avid Nazi, but that's very far from the truth. Read Michael Kennedy's biography of Strauss. I know quoting actual sources is usually scoffed at around here, but you're simply wrong on this one. Look at this as good news. You're gonna LOVE Salome.

Secondly, anyone who would deny themselves the Ring and Tristan simply because they dislike the composers' politics needs to seriously chill out. Not to mention that we have no idea what Wagner would have thought of the Nazis (his books could argue either way, remarkably).

You argue that the NY Times focuses on the art, not the man. You would rather focus on the man, not the art. Isn't it possible to separate the two? Sometimes bad people make good art. We know that Beethoven was a terror to those around him, but how does that affect Op. 131 in any way? Stockhausen famously said something almost unforgivable about 9/11, but that doesn't alter my opinion of his music either. .

Literature is even more dicey as we're dealing with actual prose. My library is full of authors such as Gertrude Stein, Gabriel Garcia Marqez, John Steinbeck, etc., who I disagree with on many things, but I love the art they create. Assuming you're well-read, I'm sure your library is the same way. And let's not even get into movies...

Why would anyone refuse to enjoy art based on this criterion? For the sake of our culture, I can only hope that this is a minority opinion.

PS I hope you don't like Bach. He was not exactly warm on the Jewish people, to put it lightly...

Rob said...

Reports on how 'avid' Strauss was are mixed..but the fact is, he actually worked for the Nazis as president of the Reichsmusikkammer, the State Music Bureau.

Lots of non-Jewish German artists voted with their feet and left after they saw what Hitler and the Nazis were. He didn't and with his international reputation, he could have, a lot more easily than a number of others who left Germany.

And he did more than just stay. By becoming part of the regime, he helped to legitimize it. I can do without his music just fine, thanks.

Same with Wagner. I prefer Mozart, Puccini, Verdi and a number of others for opera frankly, and yes, I realize Puccini used some of Wagner's orchestral tricks in places. It was Wagner's symbolism, not his music that emphasized and metastasized the rotten core of German Kultur.

You're more than welcome to it.

Roland said...

Rob -

Based on your comment about 'orchestral tricks,' I think you might have a misunderstanding of the whole Wagner issue. There is zilch in Wagner's actual music that is anti-semetic (and coincidentally Puccini's orchestration technique is much more compact and is very different from Wagner). You won't get infected with the Nazi bug by listening to Wagner. And you'll miss out if you do - there are fewer pieces more beautiful than the Tristan overture.

What we object to is not his music or libretti (with the possible exception of the Yay Germany! end of Meistersinger) but the books he wrote. One of them, Jewishness in Music, is particularly nasty. I don't reccomend it.

Wagner was and has always been popular and Hitler was certainly a fan. Hitler also liked dogs, too, but we have forgiven dogs for that. The extra impetus here was that Hitler read Jewishness in Music and naturally assumed that Wagner would have been a Nazi had he lived. And he probably would have been. But, and correct me if I'm wrong, if you thought this controversy had anything to do with the musical content, you'll be glad to know that that isn't the case.

Tristan is a legend of Cornwall and Celtic origin, a love story, and a meditation on longing. It has as much to do with Germany as Scooby-Doo does. Give it a go. Life is short and we owe it to ourselves to enjoy as much beauty as possible while we're here. If you've been living under the misapprehension that the music is somehow filthy with hate, then you can rest assured. Wagner may have been an anti-Semite, but I swear that some of his music was written by the hand of god.

PS You like Verdi and Puccini? Great! Just so you know, Italian nationalism has its roots in Verdi and Puccini was a fascist. This was a very complicated time. There is not a classical composer that you can name who does not have unsavory associations. And sometimes it's those associations that are instrumental in creating art.

Sorry for the long post.

Rob said...

RE: Puccini..

If nothing else, you and I could certainly have some interesting conversation about art and music.

Puccini himself admitted being influenced by Wagner, as a lot of people were in what was an amazingly prolific era for music. Even Ravel borrowed a bit from Das Rheingold in the intro to La Valse.

What I refer to as 'orchestral tricks' involves dynamics,certain uses of chromaticism, framing and harmony with vocal lines and the use of certain timbres to underline dramatic parts of a libretto.

There's no evidence that Puccini was a fascist unless you believe Mussolini,and Il Duce was, shall we say, truth challenged at times.

The most anyone can find is that Puccini may have given money to fascist candidates right after WWI.And that the Fascists borrowed some of his music to march to on occasions. For that matter, they used Verdi and Bellini too.

He was probably far too busy with music and his love life to do much with politics!

Also, despite their alliance, the Fascists and Nazis were too entirely different species. despite a lot of rhetoric, there were no mass deportations of Italian Jews to the concentration camps until 1944, when Germany occupied the country. The Italians simply didn't have the cultural heritage of traditional Jew hatred the Germans did.

Wagner fed that, not only in his books but in his music and libretti, which he wrote himself.

'Tristan und Isolde' is indeed based on the Arthurian legends, but I think it would be fair to say that Wagner Germanized it - extremely. And anyway, I distinctly mentioned the Ring Cycle.

I'm actually quite familiar with Wagner's music, Roland, just to clear that up. As I became more conscious of what it entailed, I made a personal decision to excise it.

And being familiar with it, there's no doubt in my mind that it was, essentially, the Nazi soundtrack. It's quite easy to see how it fed the German psyche and why it was played at places like Auschwitz.

If Wagner had been alive to do so, there's no doubt in my mind that he would have conducted it there himself, with great pleasure.

Like I said, it's all about drawing lines.


Roland said...

you and I could certainly have some interesting conversation about art and music

Agreed. That would be nice, in fact.

Rob said...

I have a number of friends from the old Music Biz days that are quite left leaning.

Our tacit agreement is that when we socialize, we never talk politics and that works pretty well.

OTOH, I have friends who are left leaning that I talk politics with all the time. We just make sure to remember we like each other!