Gore Vidal Says He’ll Sue Edmund White Over Timothy McVeigh Play


Edmund White’s new play Terre Haute, which I posted about in May, is said to be based on an imagined series of conversations between Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and writer Gore Vidal.

Vidal is apparently not happy about it. He told The Observer: “Edmund White will yet be feeling the wrath of my lawyers. It’s unethical and vicious to make it very clear that this old faggot writer is based on me, and that I’m madly in love with Timothy McVeigh, who I never met. [I don’t want to be] lumped together with Mailer and Capote. They both went for murderers, and I don’t go for murderers.”

McveighIn May, White told The Telegraph about the play’s origins: “‘I thought, ‘How can I do that? I can’t imagine writing lines from McVeigh’s point of view.’ Then I remembered Gore Vidal had been in correspondence with him. I thought: ‘Well, they never met, but wouldn’t it be interesting if you changed the names and let them meet?’ I’ve known Gore. We’re roughly the same age group, we’re both Europeanised Americans, we’re both gay. I was presumptuous enough to write things from his point of view but as I went on writing the play, it became much more about me. Gore later told me: ‘I would never have been attracted to someone like that.’ But I would have been.”

White told the New York Post‘s Page Six that Vidal signed off on the portrayal: “I still have the fax saying it was OK by him. Maybe he forgot it, since he went into surgery the very next day. I changed the names of the characters . . . I invented all the dialogue and actions, [and] the character of James ended up being closer to my experience and politics than to Mr. Vidal’s…[White also insists that nobody who has reviewed the show] made the mistake of confounding the character James with Gore Vidal. I hope upon reflection Mr. Vidal will withdraw his intention to sue me for libel.”

The paper notes: “In one sexually charged scene, James comes on to Harrison during a prison visit, gushing: ‘If I thought you’d never know, I’d unzip that orange jumpsuit just a bit so I could see your chest. Touch it.’ The McVeigh character opens his shirt to show off his torso as a ‘gift’ to the Vidal character.

you may have missed…
Edmund White’s New Play Terre Haute Gazes on Timothy McVeigh [tr]


  1. says

    Gore, baby. It’s late in the game and there is no need to generate another Capote-esque literary bitch fight. We love you, distempered queeniness and all, but you should do something else to keep your name in the paper. It’ll just end up as a minor line in the obit, anyway, and there is too much else to focus on in your long, storied, promiscuous life.

  2. says

    TYler? As in Parker Tyler? Who dug you you up, sweetcakes?

    Literary bitch fights are the staff of life, dear. Don’t you remember Lilian Hellman and Mary McCarthy?

    Gore doesn’t need to “keep his name in the papers.” Ed needs to mind his manners. He should have known full well that you can’t cross Myra Breckinridge.

  3. Derrick from Philly says

    Funny, I never thought of Gore Vidal as a “queen” type, but I’ll take all the illustrious folks I can in my corner. All these wannabe macho homos are so tired.

  4. sean says

    i’m gonna side with vidal on this one except, of course, for his using the word “faggot” in reference to white. just because you’re gay, doesn’t give you carte blanche to use that word freely. self-respect starts at home. and why does white feel the need to write a play with this type of subject matter? doesn’t exactly portray our minority in a very favorable light. indeed, a gay guy having the “hots” for a mass murderer. like any of us could not do any better than to have a poster of mcveigh over our collective beds. as if we’re all being led around by our cocks…

  5. Derrick from philly says

    “…all being led around by our cocks…”

    And booty holes too, Sean. This still is an equal opportunity blog, aint it?

  6. Daniel says

    I’m with Gore on this one–the whole thing, imagining a sexual relationship between Gore Vidal and Timothy McVeigh always seemed like a creepy sexual fantasy of Edmund White’s (who seems pretty creepy all by himself). And Tyler as someone with a promiscuous past myself I have only one word for you: Jealous?

  7. BScout says

    Sean, I don’t advocate the use of the word “faggot” but it is clear from the article that Vidal’s use of the word was in reference to the character in the play {“James”} and not White. Reading comprehension over sensationalism, please.

  8. says

    Daniel– Not at all. If you tone-deaf queens would quit being so sensitive, you might have noticed that I called his life storied and long, and that I love him, distempered queeniness and all.

    Read the screen, queen.

  9. sean says

    uh, bscout, do you even have a point with your comment? prolly not since it contradicts itself. close your mouth. your fangs are showing.