Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Gore Vidal, fully Eugene Luther Gore Vidal

American Author, Playwright, Essayist, Screenwriter and Political Activist

"It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail."

"To bring into the world an unwanted human being is as antisocial an act as murder."

"It is the spirit of the age to believe that any fact, no matter how suspect, is superior to any imaginative exercise, no matter how true."

"Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates."

""You got to meet everyone — Jackie Kennedy, William Burroughs." People always put that sentence the wrong way around. I mean, why not put it the true way, that these people got to meet me, and wanted to? Otherwise it sounds like I spent my life hustling around trying to meet people: "Oh, look, there's the governor.""

"A genius with the IQ of a moron."

"A current pejorative adjective is narcissistic. Generally, a narcissist is anyone better looking than you are, but lately the adjective is often applied to those “liberals” who prefer to improve the lives of others rather than exploit them. Apparently, a concern for others is self-love at its least attractive, while greed is now a sign of the highest altruism. But then to reverse, periodically, the meanings of words is a very small price to pay for our vast freedom not only to conform but to consume."

"A good deed never goes unpunished."

"A triumph of the embalmerÂ’s art."

"A talent for drama is not a talent for writing, but is an ability to articulate human relationships."

"A superficial education would be worse than none. But a full education would open every man's eyes to the nature of human existence."

"A narcissist is someone better looking than you are."

"Actually, there is no such thing as a homosexual person, any more than there is such a thing as a heterosexual person. The words are adjectives describing sexual acts, not people. The sexual acts are entirely normal; if they we're not, no one would perform them."

"A writer must always tell the truth (unless he's a journalist)."

"After four centuries, Montaigne's curious genius still has that effect on his readers and, time and again, one finds in his self-portrait one's own most brilliant aperçus (the ones that somehow we forgot to write down and so forgot) restored to us in his essays—attempts—to assay—value—himself in his own time as well as, if he was on the subject, all time, if there is such a thing."

"All children alarm their parents, if only because you are forever expecting to encounter yourself."

"All the other candidates are making speeches about how much they have done for their country, which is ridiculous. I haven't done anything yet, and I think it's just common sense to send me to Washington and make me do my share."

"Always a godfather, never a god."

"All in all, I would not have missed this century for the world."

"Although Americans justify their self-interest in moral terms, their true interest is never itself moral."

"American society, literary or lay, tends to be humorless. What other culture could have produced someone like Hemingway and not seen the joke?"

"Americans tend to play different roles, hoping that somehow theyÂ’ll stumble on the right one."

"American writers want to be not good but great; and so are neither."

"Anais Nin gave me my most original, or so I thought, creation. As I read Incest, I realized that something which I had always taken to be unique, the voice of Myra Breckinridge, was actually that of Anaïs in all the flowing megalomania of the diaries. Of course, I had not read the diaries then, but even so, if only for that one thundering voice, I am forever in her debt."

"An educated man must be bilingual."

"An eagle, looking for a hard surface on which to break up the turtle that he held in his claws, mistook the bald head of Aeschylus, the author of The Persians, for a rock and let slip the turtle, with fatal accuracy."

"Andy Warhol is the only genius I've ever known with an I.Q. of 60."

"Any American who is prepared to run for President should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from every doing so."

"Apparently, "conspiracy stuff" is now shorthand for unspeakable truth."

"Anyone who sings about love and harmony and life [John Lennon] is dangerous to someone who sings about death and killing and subduing [Nixon]"

"As for the human case, the generation of men come and go and are in eternity no more than bacteria upon a luminous slide, and the fall of a republic or the rise of an empire—so significant to those involved—are not detectable upon the slide even were there an interested eye to behold that steadily proliferating species which would either end in time or, with luck, become something else, since change is the nature of life, and its hope."

"As Brooks Adams put it, the sole problem of our ruling class is whether to coerce or to bribe the powerless majority."

"Apparently, a concern for others is self-love at its least attractive, while greed is now a sign of the higher altruism. But then to reverse, periodically, the meanings of words is a very small price to pay for the freedom not only to conform but to consume."

"As long as any adult thinks that he, like the parents and teachers of old, can become introspective, invoking his own youth to understand the youth before him, he is lost."

"As I looked back over my life, I realized that I enjoyed nothing--not art, not sex--more than going to the movies."

"As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests."

"As one gets older, litigation replaces sex."

"As the age of television progresses the Reagans will be the rule, not the exception. To be perfect for television is all a President has to be these days."

"As the ate afternoon sun shone in Shaw's face and a soft flower-scented wind cooled him, his unhappiness turned to a detachment that was not at all unpleasant. He was utterly alone in the world. This knowledge thrilled him."

"As the Greeks sensibly believed, should you get to know yourself, you will have penetrated as much of the human mystery as anyone need ever know."

"Asked who was the worst president, he responded, Oh, there were so many of them. Certainly the silliest was Reagan. The most empty. [George H.W.] Bush is in the running for the worst."

"At a certain age, you have to live near good medical care — if, that is, you're going to continue. You always have the option of not continuing, which, I fear, is sometimes nobler."

"Basler finds my Lincoln the 'phoniest historical novel I have ever had the pleasure of reading.'... Also, 'more than half the book could never have happened as told.' Unfortunately, he doesn't say which half. If I knew, we could then cut it free from the phony half and publish the result as Basler's Vidal's Lincoln."

"Because there is no cosmic point to the life that each of us perceives on this distant bit of dust at galaxy's edge, all the more reason for us to maintain in proper balance what we have here. Because there is nothing else. Nothing. This is it. And quite enough, all in all."

"At least when the Emperor Justinian, a sky-god man, decided to outlaw sodomy, he had to come up with a good practical reason, which he did. It is well known, Justinian declared, that buggery is a principal cause of earthquakes, and so must be prohibited. But our sky-godders, always eager to hate, still quote Leviticus, as if that looney text had anything useful to say about anything except, perhaps, the inadvisability of eating shellfish in the Jerusalem area."

"At any given moment, public opinion is a chaos of superstition, misinformation, and prejudice."

"Big oil, big steel, big agriculture avoid the open marketplace. Big corporations fix prices among themselves and thus drive out of business the small entrepreneur. Also, in their conglomerate form, the huge corporations have begun to challenge the very legitimacy of the state."

"Before the cards that one is dealt by life are the cards that fate has dealt: one's family."

"Ayn Rand's 'philosophy' is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous and symptomatic as we enter a curious new phase in our society.... To justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind not only immoral, but evil."

"But it wasnÂ’t until I was well into my twenties and had Jewish friends that I heard about guilt."