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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A writing life not sought

“I didn't mean to spend my life writing American history, which should have been taught in the schools, but I saw no alternative but to taking it on myself. I could think of a lot of cheerier things I'd rather be doing than analyzing George Washington and Aaron Burr. But it came to pass, that was my job, so I did it.” – Gore Vidal

Vidal was born on this day in 1925 at West Point, NY, where his father was a military officer serving as the first instructor of aeronautics in the Military Academy’s history.   He would become one of the most well known and sometimes controversial writers in American history, doing novels, essays, screenplays and stage plays and taking on a larger-than-life public role as an intellectual, debater and historian.

He wrote 28 nonfiction books, 32 novels, 8 plays, and 16 screenplays and teleplays.  Many of his books were best sellers, but especially gripping were his historical novels Burr, Lincoln, 1876 and Empire.  Vidal won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for the anthology United States: Essays 1952–92.

“I never wanted to be a writer.  I mean, for me, that was the last thing I wanted,” he said shortly before his death in 2012.      And as for writing in America today, he added, “You hear all this whining going on, 'Where are our great writers?' The thing I might feel doleful about is: Where are the readers?”

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