Sunday, March 18, 2007

The City and the Pillar

from the diary: “Thursday 1/1/87

“finished The City and the Pillar last night – by Gore Vidal. It was pretty good. HEY! Nobody died! The ending was kinda tragic. But nobody died – not even a minor character. Not bad.”

Of the gay fiction I’d read in the preceding few months the following books included the death of at least one gay character: The Collected Stories of Tennessee Williams, Dance on My Grave, The Front Runner, Solstice. Not like I was supposed to take any message away from that.

In fact, in the first version of The City and the Pillar the main character kills someone. As the glbt encyclopedia says, “Vidal had gone against tradition by having his protagonist kill his boyhood love rather than expiate his own supposed transgressions through death.” Gore Vidal himself writes, “At the time it was generally believed that the publishers forced me to tack on a cautionary ending in much the same way the Motion Picture Code used to insist that wickedness be punished. This was not true. I had always meant the end of the book to be black, but not as black as it turned out. So for a new edition of the book published in 1965 I altered the last chapter considerably.” I remember seeing the word “revised” on the cover of the copy I read. I remember thinking that was a good thing, as though I were reading the most up to date version. It probably was a good thing.

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