Just finished The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal, a writer and thinker that I have always wanted to become more closely acquainted with. Written in 1946 and published in 1948, Vidal shocked America with a protagonist named Jim Willard, who was wholly American and homosexual. Vidal’s earnest and plain writing illuminate the nature of gay life in the 1940’s as Willard moves through the Navy, Hollywood, and New York. The novel sparked a scandal and the New York Times refused to review or advertise The City and the Pillar, or any book by Vidal for years to come. I appreciated this book for Vidal’s writing, but also his astute historical and social perspective.
Some favorite quotes and passages:
When the eyes are shut, the true world begins.
Yet he realized that it would be a difficult matter to live in a world of men and women without participating in their ancient and necessary duet.
In the highest society, the homosexual wore a stylized mask in order to move gracefully, and often convincingly, among admiring women who were attracted to him because his understanding was a great as his demands were few. Occasionally two homosexuals might meet in the great world. When they did, by a quick glance they acknowledged one another and, like amused conspirators, observed the effect each was having. It was a form of freemasonry.
Everything in this country is calculated to destroy both sexes. Men are told that their desires are dirty and unwanted. Woman are told that they are goddesses and that men are fortunate to be able just to worship them at a distance…
Jim met him in a restaurant where the food an service were bad but where many people who were famous came to look not only at one another but also at themselves in the mirrors which lined the dining room.
The following clip is extracted from GORE VIDAL: UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA, which I watched this weekend. Highly recommended!