N orman Mailer once punched Vidal at a party after the writer had given him a bad review. Still on the floor, Vidal declared: "Once again, words fail Norman Mailer." Their lengthy literary feud continued and Mailer also reportedly headbutted Vidal before an appearance on the Dick Cavett TV show, after Vidal compared him to infamous killer Charles Manson. When Mailer once said that "Vidal lacks the wound" (a reference to his privileged upbringing), Vidal snapped: "Privileged? You mean more privileged than a fat boy from South Africa with a doting mother?" [Mailer's father was born in Cape Town].
Neuhaus’s experiences as a pastor in the New York slums and his passionate opposition to abortion had led him rightward in the 1980s. But he was disturbed by the racial politics of Chronicles , and also by what he termed its “insensitiv[ity] to the classical language of anti-Semitism.” Neuhaus contemplated severing the connection between his institute and Rockford. Word of his dissatisfaction filtered back to Illinois, and, one day in May, Rockford struck back. An executive from the institute jetted out to New York, fired Neuhaus and his entire staff, ordered them literally out onto the streets, and changed the office locks. The paleos at Rockford exploded in dumbfounded rage when the foundations that had been supporting Neuhaus’s work refused to switch the money over to them instead.
Gore Vidal is by now obviously irremediably saved from his public persona. His essays celebrate the triumph of private values over the public ones of power. They represent the drama of the private face perpetually laughing at, and through, the public one. At the same time, their seriousness lies very largely in his grasp of the conditions and characteristics which make up the public world. What makes an essayist? It is curious to reflect that the greatest English essayist, Francis Bacon, was also a man with the strongest sense of public values consistently questioned in his essays by those of the private human condition; and that Montaigne was a magistrate who retired from public life to his country estate and thought much about the world, and about power, and about friendship.