Gore Vidal At The VIFF Vancity Theatre - Two GemsMonday, July 07, 2014
In my youth, it seemed that every American had an Aunt Fenita. No matter where one’s family lived or was from, Aunt Fenita was always from Ohio. As she grew older, she tended to move east to New York State or Connecticut, where she would settle in a white-frame house in a town with a name like Plandome. By definition, Aunt Fenita was of a certain age, as the French say; and a widow or spinster, she lived continually alone. She had enough money to travel, and that was what she did best – and most. Since European travel was still and adventure for Americans before WW II, Aunt Fenita was positively glamorous in her knowledge of steamship lines and railroad schedules, hotels and pensions. She was what was then called a globe-trotter. Had anyone collected her postcards, he would have had a panoramic, even Braudelesque, view of just what it was that our innocents abroad most like to look at; in Aunt Fenita’s case, the Matterhorn loomed rather larger than the Louvre; but then she never saw an alp that she didn’t like. Of course, we were Alpine folk.
Aunt Fenita was the self-appointed emissary between the family in America and the family in Europe. Before World War II, we were remarkable in that the European branch was far more distinguished than the American. Things had not gone well for the first two generations in God’s country. But in Europe, titles abounded; and although she always got them wrong, Aunt Fenita was an eager, even obsessed, genealogist. Postcards of castles where relatives lived, or allegedly lived, would arrive, such as Schloss Heidegg in Gilfingen. A neatly-drawn arrow, pointing to a noble casement, marks ‘Your grandmother Caroline’s room. On Aunt Fenita’s death, trunks were found filled with Brownie snapshots of houses, castles, stout ladies, bearded burghers, coats-of-arms, pressed flowers from gardens of relatives in Feldkirch, St. Gallen, Unterwalden, Lucerne, and a list of the doges of Venice – her greatest discovery and the family’s Rosetta Stone – of whom three were called Vidal or Vitale, the magic name triply underlined in Aunt Fenita’s triumphant porphyry-purple ink. There were also postcard views of, variously, the church, the piazza and the Rio S. Vidal.
Vidal In Venice – Gore Vidal 1985
Today Rosemary and I went to one of Vancouver’s cultural gems, VIFF (Vancity Theatre) on 1181 Seymour Street, half a block north of Davie. We saw Gore Vidal – United States of Amnesia, a documentary directed by Nicholas Wrathall with: Gore Vidal, Christopher Hitchens, Tim Robbins and Robert Scheer.
Since both Rosemary and I lean to the left we enjoyed the show firmly ensconced in the best (very red) and most comfortable theatre seats in our fair city.
I have read many of Vidal’s books including Messiah, Empire (and I must admit The Smithsonian Institution – A Novel and Live from Golgotha) and that gem Vidal wrote about Venice with beautiful photographs by Tore Gill.
The closest I ever got to Vidal was to photograph the man who called him a queer on TV. That was William F. Buckley. I believe that out of camera range Buckley and Vidal might just have liked each other. Interesting for me is that I have also read quite a few of Buckley’s novels. Both Vidal and Buckley had an unusual command of English with the added dollop of extreme elegance.
Rosemary and I who are now in that seventh decade of our life have come to understand that we have each other and little more (and that is plenty). So we watch good films which I get from Limelight Video or the Vancouver Public Library and now we will be frequenting the VIFF more often. Not too long ago I read about the “so called” FBI informer James Bulger in my NY Times and now on July 9 there is Whitey: United States of America Vs James J. Bulger directed by Joe Berlinger. Some of the more obscure little films reviewed by the NY Times show up at VIFF a week or two after.
Roosevelt [Theodore] produced his most dazzling smile. “I may be a hypocrite, Mr. Hearst. But I am not a scoundrel.”
“I know,” said Hearst, with mock sadness. “After all, I made you up, didn’t I?”
“Mr. Hearst,” said the President. “history invented me, not you.”
“Well, if you really want to be highfalutin, then at this time and in this place, I am history – or at least the creator of the record.”
“True history comes long after us. That’s when it will be decided whether or not we measured up, and our greatness – or its lack – will be defined.”
“True history,” said Hearst, with a smile that was, for once, almost charming, “is the final fiction. I thought even you knew that.” Then Hearst was gone, leaving the President alone in the Cabinet room, with its great table, leather armchairs, and the full-length painting of Abraham Lincoln, eyes fixed on some far distance beyond the viewer’s range, a prospect unknown and unknowable to the mere observer, at sea in present time.
Empire – A Novel – Gore Vidal 1987