The Sunday Magazine

Every Time a Friend Succeeds, Something Inside Me Dies: Jay Parini on Gore Vidal

The late Gore Vidal was a centrepiece of American cultural life for 50 years. His fame as a trenchant social critic was universal, and he loved nothing more than a good fight. His biographer, the poet and novelist Jay Parini, describes the brilliant mind and cantankerous personality he came to know over 30 years of friendship.
"I loved [Vidal] in the way one loves a deep friend, but I wasn't uncritical of him. This was a man with huge flaws, but a man with vast resources, and a great gift...we need voices like Gore's. I mean, my God, what he would make of Donald Trump," Parini tells Michael Enright.

Journalists like to attach labels to writers, but when it comes to Jay Parini, it just doesn't work. Trying to categorize him is like trying to put socks on an octopus. 

Parini is a novelist, poet, editor, educator, essayist, and biographer. His book Empire of Self is a biography of the late Gore Vidal, who Parini came to know over 30 years of friendship. (Parini's biography was published in England as Every Time a Friend Succeeds, Something Inside Me Dies, one of Vidal's best-known quotes.)

In April, Michael travelled to Montreal to take part in the annual Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival, where he talked to Parini about Vidal and Empire of Self in front of an audience.

Narcissism is...a disease, in a sense, where you can't be fed. You've got this big hole in the centre, and you can't see yourself, so you need the world to reflect you. And Gore needed endless reflection.- Jay Parini, on Gore Vidal

In 2011, Michael spoke to Gore Vidal at the same literary festival in Montreal. This interview originally aired on CBC on May 8, 2011. You can listen to their conversation in the audio player below.

This interview originally aired on CBC on May 8, 2011.
Critic, novelist and essayist Gore Vidal, known for his acerbic wit and for his many passionate feuds with other public intellectuals, died of pneumonia-related complications at his Hollywood Hills home on July 31, 2012, according to his nephew. (Charley Gallay/Getty)

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