August 19, 2012


When Gore Vidal, whose novels, as well as whose iconoclastic views and repartee, I admired and enjoyed, died, I was reminded of the infamous public spats he’d had with William Buckley and Norman Mailer. The witty calm he maintained after provoking such dangerous heads and egos to explode, while he nattily brushed off the debris, was a delight to watch. He once rendered Norman Mailer (whom I also admire, for different reasons) dumbfounded on the Dick Cavett show by calling him “a veal of a man.” How do you answer that? Some reckonings are so striking as to make further discussion impossible.

My roommate Bill and I shared a wing of a loft on Vestry Street in the late 70s. During the summer, we had the loft itself to ourselves, when the rest of the tribe took off for Key West and Saratoga.

Leo Luchese, a friend of ours, dropped a bunch of furniture off at the loading dock/storage area, stuff that was in transit to his new apartment. When he was finished moving, a couple of weeks later, he left behind a rather formless, hulking, brown leather sofa that he said Bill and I could have, if we wanted it. Bill and I went down to have a look.

It was pretty ugly. But I thought it had possibilities. Bill, however, didn’t, and rendered his judgment:

“It’s anti-life,” he said, and walked away.

And that - what could I say to that? - was that.