Sunday, February 16, 2014

Gore Vidal vs Norman Mailer

I've just found this gem of a clip, featuring an on-screen spat between Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer on the Dick Cavett Show. The real only winner in this embarrassing encounter is the veteran journalist Janet Flanner:
I can't remember the last time I saw two writers arguing (or even agreeing) on a chat show. It's a pity.


Canadian Chickadee said...

LOL -- Those were the days when talk shows used to be fun, and weren't just endlessly repetitive puff pieces for the next book/film/TV role!

Thanks for sharing, xoxox Carol

Brian Busby said...

Unpleasant, yet refreshing. My favourite clip of two writers going at one another is this with William Buckley and Gore Vidal during the violence of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

Our Liberal Party will be meeting in Montreal this week. I don't expect Yann Martel and Margaret Atwood will be commenting. I do miss Mordecai Richler.

Roget said...

Wonderful clip, Steerforth. I haven't given up hope yet that something like this will happen some day on Graham Norton or the One Show. After all, why ever shouldn't it?
It seemed to me that Dick Cavett (you can't imagine Parky having the intellectual confidence to take Norm on) and the elderly lady were the true stars.
I've always thought Mailer was a semi-talented literary huckster who just got away with it his entire life. It's clear in this encounter that wit wasn't his strongest point. Vidal on the other hand (though not much here)dripped it from every pore.
Mailer is supposed to have slugged him at a party following a bad review. From the floor, Vidal managed, "Once again, Norman Mailer is lost for words."
My favourite Vidalery, however, is recorded by Alan Bennett in his diary for September, 1984:
"Gore Vidal is being interviewed on Start The Week along with Richard (Watership Down) Adams. Adams is asked what he thought of Vidal's novel about Lincoln. 'I thought it was meretricious' 'Really?' says Gore. 'Well meretricious and a happy new year.' That's the way to do it".
Apart from the quality of the put down for its own sake, I enjoyed hearing Adams squashed. He was one of the nastiest authors I ever had to deal with.
Very good too to see Brian's reference to Mordecai Richler. I loved Cocksure and St Urbain's Horseman is one of my all-time favourite novels.

Steerforth said...

Carol - You're right. The well-oiled marketing machine, with its army of PR people, makes most chat shows incredibly bland these days.

Brian - What a refreshing contrast to today's cynically engineered Jerry Springer-style clashes. My memories of 1968 are rather hazy, but after reading Mark Kurlansky's enigmatically-titled 1968, I almost feel as if I remember the Chicago riots.

Roget - Vidal made any chat show watchable, but I usually felt that he deserved better interviewers. Dick Cavett was a cut above Sir Terry. Also, some of his best barbs were lost on the audience.

My favourite Vidal quote is the well-known "Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little." Marvellous.

As you've expressed a "passion" for Richard Adams, I thought you'd enjoy this. If she didn't work for Ottakar's, she should have done:

Roget said...

Thank you very much indeed for that, Steerforth. I found it....errrrr.....haunting.
I see what you mean in making the Ottakar's connection. Almost identikit.
I just checked and to my amazement, the old bugger is still going strong at 93 and no doubt just as obnoxious as ever.
I had thought he was "running through the long grass, far, far away..."

Anonymous said...

I hesitate to put in a good word for him here but Mailer's book on the Chicago riots is quite good. Miami and the Seige of Chicago.

But I'm honestly not sure any of those on this panel will be remembered a generation from now.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Hilarious! Would never have happened on Parky! What were they arguing about again? Mr Mailer seemed somewhat bonkers, aside from his three-chair ego, er, intellect.