The critics are chattering about Baz Luhrmann’s highly anticipated The Great Gatsby. They fall into two camps: those who watched the movie for itself, and those who closely compared it to the book. Even though I appreciate F. Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal work, I’ll be going to the theater as a member of the first camp. Adaptations are rarely successful when the goal is a strict translation of the book to the screen. Even if a movie’s based on a book, I try to judge it as a movie in its own right, as if the book had never existed. Just to prove how unimportant The Great Gatsby’s faithfulness to the book is, here are four examples of absolutely amazing, beautiful, gripping, classic movies (and a TV show) that took an existing story and threw expectations out the window to make something completely original.
5. The Adaptation Most People Don’t Know Is an Adaptation: O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Did you know that O Brother Where Art Thou?, the Coen brothers’ rollicking adventure comedy through the Depression-era South, is a loose retelling of Homer’s Odyssey? If you didn’t, pick up the DVD and rewatch it (well, you should rewatch it anyway even if you did already know because it’s that good) and see if you can recognize the sirens, the cyclops, and the hydra.
You have your killer opening, you’ve polished it nicely. At least if you’re like me, you can’t help polishing a bit every time you look at it. You’re now fifty pages in, and everything seems to be going too slow, and you’ve lost track of where you were going, and you start to panic and think you’re doing it wrong.
This happens whether you are a plotter and had everything exquisitely planned in advance, or you’re flying by the seat of the pants and have clue zero what actually works.
Once you have the first few pages of the book ready, and you are aimed more or less in the direction you will go, you start feeling everything went wrong and the idea you had to begin with is completely impracticable, and… and… and…
Keep calm and carry on. Take deep breaths. The experience you’re having is uncomfortable but completely normal. It’s sort of like having a root canal. Just because it’s unpleasant doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Trust me.
What is happening at the psychological level is that you’ve now set yourself on one course to write your novel, and part of you – you know, the part that thought writing should be a really exciting adventure – is sitting back there going “What? This is all there is? This is not fun.”
It’s bad enough if you’re making it up as you go along, because you can just have the nagging feeling something has gone wrong, and not know what.
It’s worse, if you’re an outliner, you might have had that opening happening much faster. Writing an outline is much like dancing would be if there were no gravity. You can make your character do anything and – because it’s impossible to plot all those details without making the outline longer than a novel – you don’t know what the opposition is doing precisely.
Then you come to write, say a jail escape scene, and gravity hits you with a thud. Your character can’t do that unless you wish to make the opposition almost comic-opera stupid. So you have to make her escape more difficult, every step more negotiated.
The bad news is that at this point, you can’t tell. All of us professional novelists have read a third or a half of a novel we started long ago and put down unfinished and thought “How in heaven’s name did I think this made a good beginning?”
On the other hand, we’ve also all read beginnings we abandoned long ago and thought “Wow, this is really, really good. Yes, I am better now, but this has sparkle and life that pulls me right in.”
The problem here that when you’re less than a third (I’m less than a fifth) into a novel, you truly can’t judge it. Worse, the friends who normally read stuff for you also won’t be able to tell you if it’s any good or not.
- Version 1.0 of my 2013 Self-Improvement Program: 7 New Year’s Resolutions I Invite Others to Steal
- Version 1.5, published a month later after my 29th birthday: The Plan So I Don’t Waste the Last Year of My 20s
Today I am joining Charlie Martin and Sarah Hoyt in attempting a 13 Weeks Blogging Self-Improvement Program. I invite others to join me and assist in the continued development of what we should call The Charlie Martin 13 Weeks Method. (Has a nice alliterative ring to it, methinks.) Back in February Charlie laid out his approach:
By accident, however, I’d noticed a process, or pattern.
- Decide there’s something you want to change.
- Find ways to measure your progress.
- Decide on some small unthreatening things you can do that should affect those measures.
- Track the results for 13 weeks and see what happens. It helps to pick appropriate tools and techniques for that tracking, but something as simple as a Seinfeld calendar, where you just draw an X on a calendar for every day you do something can be very powerful.
So here’s my 1-2-3-4 for The 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen:
1. The problem that I’d like to change is the one that Sarah identified in her PJ Lifestyle article yesterday: being buried in books for research. Over the past year I’ve tried to figure out how to organize the various subjects that I want to study in order to best make sense of them and find the connections across the disciplines. I want to read more books and do a better job of staying organized with the ideas and research that I find in them for my future writing and editing projects. I want to continue to explore connections across disciplines, reading both novels and a wide variety of nonfiction, both very serious philosophy and absurd satire.
2. I will continue to share the most interesting nuggets of my research in one daily PJ Lifestyle Bookshelf post that features an excerpt. Additional snapshots from my research will appear at my Instagram and Twitter accounts which can be followed here and here.
3. I will only create seven piles of books, one for each day, and then base each day’s reading on the titles from that pile. I won’t have to think about which books I’ll read each day. I’ll just draw from each pile. Each day will be based on 1-3 authors and 1-4 related subjects that I want to juxtapose together. This will not be a hard rule that I can only read from that day’s pile. If a book on another subject has caught my enthusiasm then I can still read it after dong the day’s necessary reading.
But I need to find at least two excerpts worth Instagramming and at least one of them should appear as a PJ Lifestyle Bookshelf selection to inspire debate and discussion. (That’s the purpose of those posts — for the regular readers who have complained, asking why I don’t take a few paragraphs to spell out my opinion of each excerpt offered. They appear because I am more interested in hearing reader feedback on them than pontificating my own ideas.) These seven piles will then flow into the six categories that I created in my original Counterculture Conservative book list from back in October. The seventh (and last) category I plan to add will be based on my list of the The 15 Best Books for Understanding Barack Obama’s Mysterious Political Theology. (This will be the basis for Friday’s systematic exploration of evil ideas.)
4. I will create a calendar on a page of my journal broken up into 13 weeks and at the beginning of each day I will notate which page I am on in the books that I am reading associated with that day. I will photograph this calendar and blog about it each week, noting and analyzing my results on Tuesdays (the PJ Lifestyle day focused on writing, media, and technology). At the end of the 13 weeks I will see the progress I made on each author and subject. Then I will decide how to adjust each day’s reading focus, maybe taking a break from an author for a bit or adding another writer whose ideas are worth juxtaposing with the other thinkers of the day.
So what will the reading subjects be for the seven days of this “first season,” as Charlie calls it, of the The 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen? I’m doubling down on the authors and subjects of previous self-improvement plans, but focusing some plans and expanding others. As always, your recommendations for additional books and authors that I need to read are sincerely appreciated. Please leave suggestions in the comments or email me.
And publishers, authors and publicists: any and all paperback/hardback books received by mail will be photographed and blogged about. (And e-books that are especially interesting may also be featured. But actual books are of course more photogenic.)
“Man is a mystery: if you spend your entire life trying to puzzle it out, then do not say that you have wasted your time. I occupy myself with this mystery, because I want to be a man.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky
Perhaps the best explanation for the Nostradamus-like talents of Fyodor Dostoevsky can be found in this telling quote from a personal letter he sent a friend upon embarking on a career as a writer. Old Fyodor was an astute student of the human condition, but his motivation did not stem simply from academic purposes or from the fact that he wanted something, like political power.
Dostoevsky, believe it or not, actually valued life and wanted to live it more fully. He sought to realize his own purpose and function, and then to share his findings. He believed that just because we can’t know everything about our existence and the ongoing tale of humanity does not mean we cannot know anything. Nearly all of us say we want to find answers; most prematurely resign from the hunt.
Fyodor never did. And as a result, his novels remain as relevant today as they were 150 years ago.
In the first half of this essay on the 20th century sociopolitical nightmares that Dostoevsky predicted in his novels, we identified three specific areas of the culture that the great Russian writer correctly foresaw would suffer under the rise of secularism and socialism: the institution of the family, the private religion of the people, and the value such a nation puts on human life.
Today we will take a peek under the hood of three more important areas of society that would ultimately sit under judgment of the prophetic pronouncements Dostoevsky made in his impressive body of work:
- Economics of Envy: The War on Private Property
- Idolizing the Intellectual: The War on Higher Education
- and Social Engineering: The War on the Individual
“He was, in an idiom he would have understood, a petty bourgeois individualist who esteemed collectivism at least some of the time but never submitted to it himself. He resented the rich and powerful but enjoyed their company.” As I read these words, which appear in the prologue of a new book by Richard Seymour, I made an incomplete mental list of people to whom they could apply: George Bernard Shaw seems to fit quite nicely, as does J.K. Galbraith. Moving along the spectrum from alleged intellectuals to proven fools, one could add Oliver Stone, Sean Penn, and Edward Asner. It becomes clear rather quickly that the only ones susceptible to this charge are those who base their politics on a distinction between the individual and the collective—a dubious premise in itself, and thus one that is bound to lead to stark differences between theory and practice.
The target of the charge, therefore, is usually those on the Left, who are to varying degrees comfortable with the distinction, and who face the ire of both foes on the right as well as their more puritanical comrades. The accused this time around is Christopher Hitchens (Peace Be Upon Him), a man whom Seymour regards as the quintessential “apostate leftist.” Titled Unhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens, this book (excuse me: “extended political essay”) is published by Verso, ironically the same radical press that put out many of Hitchens’s own books, including The Trial of Henry Kissinger, from which Seymour draws his subtitle. The tradition of Verso is to perform surgery without anesthesia, to get the job done in a hundred pages or less, and to use a shotgun instead of a scalpel. The aim is always nothing less than the pure destruction of one’s opponent: to burn him and scatter his ashes and then send wilted flowers to the mourners.
Witness by Whittaker Chambers recently turned 60, and journalists and scholars met at Yale University to celebrate this literary landmark and seminal text of the conservative movement. The discussion brought out divisions on the Right that actually go back to the Cold War.
This classic memoir, about the author’s defection from communism and testimony against one of his former comrades, Alger Hiss, was an instant bestseller in 1952. Chambers pulls the reader into his strange life: his service to Soviet military intelligence, his disillusionment and flight from the communist underground, and the obloquy he faced when the East Coast establishment circled the wagons around Hiss, a veteran of the U.S. State Department.
When Random House published Witness, Hiss sat in prison for having denied under oath that he passed government documents to the Russians. The international context was one of steady gains for communism: the Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia, Mao’s triumph in China, and the Kremlin’s acquisition of the bomb. This is why Chambers wanted to make his book more than a spy story. Emulating Dostoevsky, he cast his account in dramatic philosophical and historical terms:
The simple fact is that when I took up my little sling and aimed at Communism, I also hit something else. What I hit was the forces of that great socialist revolution, which, in the name of liberalism, spasmodically, incompletely, somewhat formlessly, but always in the same direction, has been inching its ice cap over the nation for two decades.
The text, said Aldous Huxley, is the pretext. We read not only to learn or process information. We read—or at least we did once upon a time—to revel in the sheer opulence of language. “‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/Did gyre and gimble in the wabe,” is how Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” begins. Humpty Dumpty parses the words for Alice and explicates their “portmanteau” nature, but the pleasure resides not only in sense-making but in the sensual flair and appetite of our potential engagement with the language.
All our activities may be viewed in the same light. We do things not only to get them done but to embroider our personalities around them: in talk, exchange of pleasantries and jokes, shared reverie. What is specifically human is what is civilized, that is, what remains after function has been subtracted. Packing for a trip, washing the dishes, receiving a massage, for example, are activities that may all be accomplished more or less mechanically. What is specifically human is the excited talk about the forthcoming trip while the bags are being packed, perhaps badly; the chatter over the dishes, though several may break; or the tickle in the massage. In other words, what is essentially human is what is gratuitous, the whole range of being which is not function-related, the non-utilitarian, the element of play taken in the widest possible sense.
The philosophic distinction going back in part to Plato’s Parmenides, sometimes phrased as the opposition between Reality and Necessity, is the appropriate discrimination here.* Necessity refers to the domain of activity in which the purposes of subsistence are exclusively served. It is what we may call the economic sphere of confined exertion—that of which John Travolta, playing the archangel Michael asked to revive a dead puppy, says, “It’s not my area.” Reality is the realm of spirit or of the non-replaceable, in which the sense of being is enhanced in the circuitous attainment and expression of either joy or wisdom or both. It is what John Donne is getting at when he writes: “On a huge hill/Cragged, and steep, Truth stands and he that will/Reach her, about must, and about must go.” Similarly, Emily Dickinson: “tell all the Truth, but tell it slant—/Success in Circuit lies.” And so, Polonius: “By indirections find directions out.”
*Celebrated logician Willard van Orman Quine in The Ways of Paradox and Other Essays reverses the terminology when he writes that empiricists argue that “necessity resides in the way we talk about things, not in the things we talk about.” The term “necessity” is used rather casually here and is synonymous with “freedom” or “reality.” The distinction holds.
Not long ago the top shelf of the pine hutch in my bedroom collapsed under the weight of its books. I stared at it, helpless. Fortunately Tami (she lives near me, not with me) advised me to remove the slumped books and put them, for now, in a pile on the floor; later we’d see about getting the shelf fixed.
And that — unfortunately — is where the matter still stands, weeks (months?) later. I haven’t had the motivation to fix the shelf, and the heap of books doesn’t significantly worsen the disorder of the room.
This pile is, however, on the way to my clothes closet, so I pass it a few times a day. And I spy titles: Twelfth Night; William Carlos Williams, Selected Poems…. It is, you see, a literary pile. Of the hundreds of books I still have, and have carted with me — I’m never certain why — from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv to Beersheva in recent years, a considerable portion are literary books.
That, in turn, is because literature was the main thing in my life from before college until about ten years ago. Both reading it, that is, and attempting to write it. Even while working as an editor and translator of nonliterary works, and so engrossed by Israel’s affairs that I moved here from the U.S., I somehow continued in what I saw as my main calling: writing fiction (and, as a byproduct, some poetry), and exploring the literary treasures that it behooves a serious fiction writer to explore.
What changed? I wasn’t publishing my stories anywhere too impressive, or attaining a name. I had lost my foreground of American people, places, and language; the stories I wrote seemed more and more abstract — even sort of lonely and pointless. Meanwhile the intense drama of Israel surrounded me, and when I wrote about that — in the form of an op-ed in a newspaper — I got real, immediate reactions; I felt alive, instead of like some relic washed up on a shore.
So I finally made my break from literature, almost ten years ago; I decided to focus on political writing — and reading, more or less dismissing great fiction and poetry from my life. Looking back, it was a good decision; I no longer write in a near-void, my articles are a means of connection to people instead of ever-growing isolation.
One of the best parts of the holiday season has to be Christmas movies. There are hundreds of them and a few dozen classics among them. As a father of two, I’m always interested to see how popular films portray dads, so it makes sense to find the best papas in favorite Christmas flicks who can teach us all how to be better parents.
Let’s focus on five who would make Father Christmas proud.
5. Clark Griswold, The Do-Whatever-It-Takes Father
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the third film in a series following the hilarious Griswolds. The family patriarch is the lovable goof Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), whose greatest desire is for his family to have the perfect Christmas. How many dads can relate to a guy with Christmas cheer who can’t catch a break in trying to make the season bright? Clark’s frustrations abound as he just tries to give his family a “good old-fashioned family Christmas.” Clark forgets the saw when finding the perfect Christmas tree, he can’t figure out how to get his million lights to light up (been there), he can’t make annoying in-laws happy (won’t say I’ve been there), and he buys a huge gift for his family and then doesn’t receive his Christmas bonus to pay for it. He struggles and fails, but he keeps on fighting for that wonderful family Christmas.
Time rightfully put Clark in their top ten list of perfect movie dads. They praised him as the ultimate example of “determination.” He was always willing to go the extra mile to provide experiences his family would never forget.
Clark makes our list for doing whatever it takes to bring joy and special memories to his family for Christmas. Yes, he fails and sometimes fails miserably, but his heart is in the right place. While many men may ignore Christmas or leave it to others in the family, Clark takes the lead to bring his family the joys of the holiday. I can relate to that and so can countless other fathers. We are kids at heart and want our families to experience the wonders of the holiday season.
With over 40 million views, this video captures the essence of the article you are about to read.
A funny thing happened “on the way” as I was contemplating writing this piece. While listening to a Christian radio station the announcer said, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”
At that moment this very familiar phrase hit me like a thunderbolt. For not only is “Jesus the reason for the season,” but Jesus is the reason our world, nation, history, culture and society are the way they are.
So regardless of whether you believe in Jesus, practice another faith, or are devoid of faith, Jesus has impacted you by virtue of the fact that you are alive.
For no person has affected mankind – past, present and future –more than this Jewish teacher who lived over 2000 years ago, whose birth we will celebrate with great fanfare.
Although Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were the impetus behind His followers’ establishing Christianity, the world’s largest religion itself is only the starting point for the influence Jesus spawned in countless non-religious venues as people over the centuries were moved and motivated by Him to express themselves in a multitude of ways that we continue to see played out everyday across the planet.
With so many examples of Jesus Christ’s effect on mankind it is impossible to even mention them all in this short piece — the purpose of which is to not only enhance your celebration of “the reason for the season” but to also increase your awareness of just how much Jesus impacts the world around you every day of the year.
If after reading this piece you are moved to delve deeper into this topic, I recommend a book published in 1994 that has since become a “modern classic,” What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?, co-authored by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy and the still very much alive Jerry Newcombe.
This book had a profound influence on me as it oriented my thinking about Jesus in ways that I had never contemplated.
So here in alphabetical order is only a short, incomplete list of the most obvious “non-religious” aspects of how Jesus Christ has impacted the world.
Prescient philosopher of the media Marshall McLuhan once famously remarked that “the future of the book is the blurb.” Had he lived long enough to witness the ubiquity of the personal computer and social media, he might have said that “the future of the book is the tweet.”
As both a longtime James Bond fan and a contributor to Acculturated’s symposium on “Language in the Digital Age,” I was amused to read about how author and comedian Charlie Higson recently reduced twelve of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels into 140-character tweets, just in time for the release of the new 007 movie Skyfall.
Here is Higson’s take on Dr. No, for example, the first Bond book to be made into a film, the one in which original Bond girl Ursula “Honey Rider” Andress made her iconic appearance in a white bikini: “Jamaica? Yes. Dead agent? Yes. Honeychile Rider like a naked Venus from the sea? Yes. Steel hands? Yes. Radioactive pool? No. Death by guano”
This is not the first time compressing novels into a single tweet has been undertaken on Twitter. Writers like Tim Collins have boiled down the classics at least as far back as 2009. Here is his summary of The Catcher in the Rye: “jdsalinger: Rich kid thinks everyone is fake except for his little sister. Has breakdown. @markchapman is now following @johnlennon”
Related at PJ Lifestyle on social networking and the internet:
This week Tom Wolfe, iconic American author in the white suit, reenters our cultural scene with his new book, Back to Blood. His return at the same time as Camille Paglia is a happy coincidence. Two of our sharpest culture critics both think that art and literature should mean something. (As they are both atheists, they need art to mean something, but that is one of Paglia’s arguments and so I will address it in my Glittering Images review, hopefully later this month.) Established fans of Wolfe know of his reputation as a cultural critic, but for younger readers for whom Back to Blood is their first knowledge of the author, a brief introduction to Wolfe’s massive influence:
Wolfe started out writing news as stories. He used a narrative, historical fiction style but, since he wrote on current events, he could interview the players and observe the events rather than creatively fill in gaps in the historical record. His first books were news stories about cultural phenomenon such as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test about the hippie culture and The Right Stuff on NASA culture. He expected that those true stories would inspire related fiction. They didn’t.
So in 1987 he penned an explosive essay for Harpers, “Stalking the Billion Footed Beast.” He argued that if modern American authors insisted on writing novels about nothing, then they would cede American literature to realist authors like himself. His first fiction novel, Bonfire of the Vanities, was his proof. A story about wild New York City financial life in the ’80s, Bonfire was a fabulous success. By the time he published his next novel, A Man in Full, the old guard authors were annoyed — and ready to strike back.
I admire and respect J.K. Rowling a great deal. It takes a lot of courage for a popular author to reinvent herself and come out with a book upturning what her readers expect. That’s what she did with The Casual Vacancy, her first published work of adult literary fiction.
The Casual Vacancy opens with the death of Pagford Parish Councilmember Barry Fairbrother, soon revealed to be the most genuinely kind, generous, well-meaning and non-self-absorbed person in town. He was also the deciding vote in a conflict that has torn the town apart: the stewardship of a nearby government housing project and the renewal of a lease for the local addiction clinic. A massive host of characters grapple with his death, their own personal demons, and the local controversy stirred by the special election to fill his council seat.
Rowling had to have known there would be hordes of readers hating The Casual Vacancy automatically just because it doesn’t have wizards or magic in it, and who would share their disappointment all over the internet.
That’s part of why I’m sad that I didn’t like it more. Because I picked up The Casual Vacancy prepared to read it as if it were the work of a first-time author, not the creator of Harry Potter. I was not going to bring the expectations that come with a fantasy young adult (YA) series to an adult work of literary fiction. But reading, I couldn’t stop thinking about what worked in Harry Potter and where those elements were missing from The Casual Vacancy – no, I wasn’t going to pitch a fit because Rowling dared to write a book in a different genre, but I was disappointed that she didn’t bring some of the very impressive writing skills that she’d displayed in Harry Potter to her adult fiction.
Here are four reasons why Harry Potter succeeded that have nothing to do with wizards — and why The Casual Vacancy didn’t live up to Rowling’s potential, even for a reader who wasn’t expecting wizards.
“The other” was any character of a different color/culture/sexual orientation. Weirdly, sometimes “the other” was a woman. (For some reason right now the only “other” I can remember was the dead Chinese in Effi Briest.) On cue, as instructed, we could spill rivers of ink on the “exclusion” denoted by this and that passage, on the ignorance of the individual of a certain race/culture/sexual orientation.
We learned from our professors that the objectification of the other and making it into something strange and wonderful or else threatening and dangerous were all part of the xenophobia of our forebears. Of course, the way to respond to this lack of enlightenment was as codified as the sounds of disgust we were supposed to make at the idea of objectifying “the other.” The response was, in fact, supposed to be the putting down of our own culture and the elevating of this “other” because he WAS other.
[As far as indoctrination goes, I preferred the times in elementary school when our teacher would solemnly instruct us to deface the pictures of the three Filipes (the three Spanish Kings of Portugal) in the history book. It was more open and honest and not supposed to make us hate ourselves.]
I hadn’t given this concept of The Other much thought – like other things from undergrad (and grad) humanities, I let it pass from me with no regret and perhaps a little relief – until yesterday.
You see, yesterday I read Charlie Martin’s post on the rumor that Republicans want to ban tampons. Now, the rumor started in a satire post, but here’s the thing: PEOPLE BELIEVE IT. They believe anyone in their right mind, much less anyone writing the Republican platform, would include phrases like “because it is unnatural for women’s bodies to be penetrated by objects.”
It brought to mind all the trolls I have met at every conservative blog I’ve ever been part of. Most of the blogs I take part in are of a Republican/Libertarian bend, which means basically that if you were to come in and try to discuss incest, we tie ourselves in knots, not wanting to deny anyone their liberty to do as they please, but suggesting that perhaps the power imbalance between parent and child would make the relationship problematic. Or if you bring up drug use you find yourself in an earnest argument over whether people should be allowed to snort cocaine during class, and would it make a difference if it were a private college.
(It’s not that we libertarians don’t have morals: a lot of us are religious and have iron clad morals FOR OURSELVES, we just honestly don’t believe we have the right to impose them on others, unless the cost of forbidding something is greater than the cost of allowing it. I can, have, and do argue both ends against the middle on why murder probably shouldn’t be a crime.)
HOWEVER we vote Republican (usually… Unless it’s a really safe year and we decide it’s a good year for a statement vote, and—stop it. I live in CO. My vote for Harry Brown did NOT almost make Al Gore president. Particularly not in the district I was in which went for Gore big time, anyway.) And we want a smaller government and a withering of the welfare state.
Many commentators have suggested that the passing of Gore Vidal at age eighty-six on July 31 marks the end of a remarkable generation of postwar American novelists the likes of whom we shall never see again.
When people speak of that generation of novelists, they are usually referring to exactly three people: Norman Mailer (born in 1923), Truman Capote (1924), and Vidal (1925). All three made splashy literary debuts in the years shortly after the war. All three were not just writers but celebrities. Their arrival on the national scene was followed shortly by the advent of television and the TV talk show, on which all three excelled in their different ways at making an indelible impression.
Vidal was the pompous, formidable intellect and wit, serving up well-turned putdowns of those he considered his inferiors – which included pretty much everyone – in an authoritative upper-crust dialect. Capote was the flamboyant quipster and gossip with the pronounced Southern accent, more explicit on national TV about his sexual orientation than any other gay man in America would dare for another generation. And Mailer, in contradistinction to these two gay men, was the embodiment of post-Hemingway machismo – a Brooklyn Jewish kid by way of Harvard with a chip on his shoulder and a determination to prove that he, and no other, was the natural heir to Papa Hemingway.
Back then, big authors were big TV. These three loved doing the talk shows – and the talk-show hosts loved having them on. Both Vidal and Capote were regulars on Carson (Carson actually invited Vidal to be a guest host, and Capote died at the home of one of Carson’s ex-wives, who’d become a close chum); Vidal and Mailer appeared together on a legendary episode of The Dick Cavett Show (whose wife and Vidal became good friends) on which they all but got into a fistfight on the air.
Nowadays they’d all be lucky to get on C-SPAN.