After half a century as a great novelist and America’s finest essayist, in 1995 Gore Vidal got round to writing… well, not an autobiography, but at any rate a memoir. Why a memoir? Gore told Tim that by the age of seventy he found that he figured in hundreds of other people’s memoirs, and that from his point of view they had almost all got it wrong. Whether this was due to self-serving lapses in memory or shameless lying, Gore decided to
proffer a few corrections. If this also meant indulging in a spot of high class gossip, that was OK too. He had plenty to gossip about.
Vidal had an enviable pedigree. His maternal grandfather was the legendary T P Gore, Oklahama’s first senator. His father was FDR’s Secretary of Aviation (and incidentally had an affair with Emilia Earhart). Gore himself was born at West Point and was intimate with the cream of Washington society. His political friends included Eleanor Roosevelt and JFK. His artistic peers included Tennessee Williams and Marlon Brando. Vidal had known everybody, and was not shy of dishing the dirt on any of them.
Tim fell upon Palimpsest as a starving man upon food, and couldn’t wait to pump Vidal for gossip about some of the great and the good, and especially the liars.