Gore vidal essay on mark twain

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[In reality, no one would have heard Kane's last utterance - in this scene, he is alone when he dies, although later in the film, Raymond the butler states that he heard the last word - a statement not completely reliable. It has been speculated that everything in the film was the dying man's dream -- and the burning of Rosebud in the film's climax was Kane's last conscious thought before death.] An old man has pronounced his last dying word as the snowstorm globe is released from his grip and rolls from his relaxed hand. The glass ball bounces down two carpeted steps and shatters into tiny pieces on the marble floor. [The film's flashbacks reveal that the shattering of the glass ball is indicative of broken love.] A door opens and a white-uniformed nurse appears on screen, refracted and distorted through a curve of a sliver of shattered glass fragment from the broken globe. In a dark silhouette, she folds his arms over his chest, and then covers him with a sheet. The next view is again the lit window viewed from inside. A dissolve fades to darkness.

Peering down on the anthill of human affairs from the fourth century ., Vidal’s Roman takes the long view: he’s seen it all before, which gives him a historical omniscience. By restaging the American scene — the hog wallow of our political process, the bread-and-circuses vulgarity of our tabloid culture, our imperial overreaching — as a tragic farce  set in ancient Rome, Vidal offers a lesson in the political uses of historical memory. The Caesars have things to teach us, especially in their hubris and madness. More generally, the past reminds us that our Eternal Verities are usually more relative than we know, circumscribed by our historical consciousness, bounded by our cultural norms. In a society obsessed with the New, the Now, the Next Big Thing, that’s a useful corrective.

Gore vidal essay on mark twain

gore vidal essay on mark twain


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