The Missouri campus is a pretty place, in large part because — in the areas we’ve walked through, at least — they’ve avoided throwing up the ugly, uninspired, Bauhaus-style abominations of the ’60s and ’70s that mar so many college campuses. In their place are classic college buildings that are designed to appeal to parents interested in scholarship and academic achievement. For the students, however, the appeal may lie more in the bars, bistros, and coffee shops that surround the campus.
I was saddened to learn of the recent death of Gore Vidal, the author, playwright, essayist, and a large and important figure on the American literary landscape.
Vidal cut a wide swath and was astonishingly prolific; he was known for his keen wit, his acerbic comments, and his public feuds with other cultural figures of the ’60s and ’70s. He also was one of my favorite writers. He wrote four of my favorite novels — Burr, 1876, Creation, and Lincoln — and I have relished reading, and rereading, them to this day. I think I’ve read Creation about 10 times, and I would gladly begin reading it anew any time, any place.
Vidal had a knack for looking at the world from a different perspective that veered sharply away from conventional accounts of history; his willingness to articulate that viewpoint made his novels interesting and often hilarious. (His less-than-flattering depiction of George Washington in Burr, for example, is extremely funny and makes you feel guilty for chuckling at the Father of Our Country, all at the same time.)
Vidal’s flamboyant personality and taste for controversy often seemed to overshadow the fact that he was an extremely talented writer. He will be missed on the American literary landscape.
We’re in Columbia, Missouri, moving Richard into his new place and getting it ready for the coming year. After the drive from Chicago and some unloading, we had some sushi, walked around downtown, and then took a quick stroll through campus.
The central quad of the UM campus is a beautiful place, dominated by six enormous, somewhat scarred pillars. They are all that remains of one of the first buildings on campus, which was destroyed by fire long, long ago. The columns give the grassy area a wistful, Romanesque — and very distinctive — feel.