Dessicated novelist Gore Vidal recently stood from his plate of roast child, unchained his latest romantic conquest from the cellar wall and tottered over to one of those new-fangled electronic speaking devices to deliver his views to Daniel Trilling of the New Statesman. This, for instance, on the Republican Party:
These are the small-town enemies of everybody. They just dislike everyone. They couldn’t come out and say: “We don’t want a black president” – we’ve finally got past that roadblock. So what they did was set out to slaughter the opposition party, the Democrats.
The rest is equally considered and sage. And okay, I’m joking about his personal habits, but this is a phenomenon I noticed first listening to Norman Mailer give an interview toward the end of his life. I noticed it again only recently debating former talk show host Dick Cavett on NPR. To wit: Lefty celebrities of the sixties age badly. Really badly. Once their wit or talent or gift for invective is gone, they have nothing left but crotchety and unreasoned distaste for the Others who disagree with them. They have become, in fact, conservative in the pejorative sense of that word: inflexible, immovable, cantankerously defiant of change.
Age is no friend to any of us, of course. But these are people whose every idea failed spectacularly, who have lived to see that their considerable talents were used in a way that ultimately debased American discourse and themselves. They are a bitter, disappointed and secretly self-disgusted generation. Ciao, baby.