Slow Learner

Eugene Luther Gore Vidal was born in West Point, the only child of Eugene Luther Vidal and Nina Gore. He was raised in Washington DC. When he was 10, his parents divorced; his relationship with his alcoholic mother, which ended in 1957 (she died 21 years later) seems to have been at once unsuitably intimate, in termsfun of her personal disclosures to him, and thoroughly poisonous.

He has recalled her telling him, for instance, that rage made her orgasmic (“I forgot to ask her if sex ever did”) and remarking that she was born only “because my mother’s douche bag broke.” Nina also informed him how, on the way to their honeymoon, his father had told her: “‘There’s something very important I want you to know.’ I was so excited. He’s going to tell me he loves me. But he didn’t. Instead, he said: ‘I have three balls.'” According to Vidal, his father “was in all the medical books.”

“How old were you when you noticed Nina was behaving differently from most parents?”

Vidal laughs. “51.”

“Come on.”

“No. Really. I was a slow developer. The thing is, she was just atrocious. Everybody who knew her hated her.”

“What did she do, exactly? Your grandmother said that when Nina walked in a room, it was like an evil spirit arriving.”

“Yes. This is her own mother saying that.”

“It must be awkward, then, to contemplate the fact that, genetically, you are half her. Is there anything in your character that you recognise as inherited?”

“No. If I did, I would take an emetic.”

interview with Gore Vidal, The Independent

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2 Responses to “Slow Learner”


  1. 1 sally April 9, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    oh, oh — I am reading your blogs, but I’m way behind on replies –even on articles I love– ones that excite and stir me up– like this one on Gore. He’s one of my heroes. I think I know lots about him, but I never heard or read anything about him and his mother. Mothers can do great things for sons, for their children — or they can mess them up beyond belief. I used to say I wanted to “mess” up my children’s minds so they would then become great writers or artists of some kind — OH, BUT NOT REALLY! And sadly, I have not read many of Gore’s books. Mostly I’ve watched him on the tellie on interview shows. YES, I watch too much TV. I keep saying I’m going to read more, but my stack of unread books would make the builders of the Tower of Babel jealous. I have a copy of BURR somewhere… xoxox

    • 2 bluenred April 10, 2013 at 6:36 am

      He wrote a lot of books. And not many people have read many of them. I like the essays best. And your children are fine. This is Official. ; )


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