book cover of Rocking The Boat

Rocking The Boat

(1962)
A non fiction book by

 
 
FOREWORD

THESE PIECES dealing with politics and writing and the theater were written during the last fifteen years. I despair of giving them any significant order or of finding any great consistent line to what, after all, is the work of many different occasions and moods. I have included a certain amount of political journalism, knowing perfectly well that it ages before one's eyes, from sentence to sentence. Yet I believe that if the political comment has some relevancy to readers now and in 1962, then I am willing to risk boring the reader of 1963, not to mention later.

Rereading one's own past commentary is like going through an album of old photographs. Did I really part my hair in that peculiar way? Was I ever that thin? That self-conscious? I have kept several unflattering snapshots in the interest of truth, and I have done almost no touching-up. I was struck, however, by the fact that as I get older I find myself worrying more about "usefulness" and "relevancy" in writing. When I was younger literature in itself and for itself seemed to me to be quite enough. At moments in this book I sound like a dogged social realist and moralist pregnant with an extremely long and dispirited novel about the effect of the New York milk marketing order on the financial structure of a village in Scoharie County. For those who do not know my novels, I am not really that sort of writer. I invent rather than record. Nor do I demand that the novel, necessarily, have a social purpose. Perhaps what I am trying to say is that in a difficult age each of us, artist or not, must have some sense not only of social purpose but of moral priority. My adventures in practical politics (which I discuss in a number of pieces) convinced me of the need, simply and unpietistically, for right action. But each must write his own prescription; effective or not, I have written mine.

Athens quarreled with Sparta over the small and unimportant city of Corcyra. The Peloponnesian War began and our world's first civilization was shattered. In searching for a title for this collection I was tempted to use "Toward Corcyra," but I rejected it partly because it sounded too obviously portentous, partly out of latent hope. Yet many of these pages are shadowed by the thought of war and the extinction of man. Mr. William Faulkner may decline to accept our terminus, but I suggest that some sort of positive action is called for. Stylized despair is luxurious and dangerous.

I cannot read Thucydides today for, as his narrative approaches the tragedy of Corcyra, one sees plain as death beyond that silver prose to some Corcyra of our own, and the world's end. It is useful to imagine the worst. But even as one anticipates the final nightmare of our race, something in the blood says: No, not yet, life will prevail somehow. To help life prevail is a reasonable thing to want to do, and it may be done by writing Light in August, or by attempting to change wrong laws, or by writing criticism.

I realize I am not easily placed, politically or critically. I once found myself staring with empty mind into a television camera as, presumably, millions of bored strangers stared back. I had been asked what my political philosophy was. Was I liberal or conservative? Or what? After a moment of panic, I heard myself say in that grave, somewhat ponderous voice television seminars summon from one's viscera: "I am a correctionist. If something is wrong in society, it must be fixed. At least one should try to fix it." In addition to this somewhat simpleminded social meliorism, I was early influenced or, perhaps, heartened by something George Santayana said to me. In 1948 he was living in the Convent of the Blue Nuns at Rome. I would visit him in his hospital room, and he would talk and I would listen ...

Genre: Literary Fiction

Used availability for Gore Vidal's Rocking The Boat

Hardback Editions

May 2012 : USA Hardback
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Title: Rocking The Boat
Author(s): Gore Vidal
ISBN: 1-258-31990-X / 978-1-258-31990-8 (USA edition)
Publisher: Literary Licensing, LLC
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


December 1963 : UK Hardback
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Title: Rocking the Boat
Author(s): Gore Vidal
ISBN: 0-434-82952-8 / 978-0-434-82952-1 (UK edition)
Publisher: William Heinemann Ltd
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


Paperback Editions

May 2012 : USA Paperback
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Title: Rocking the Boat
Author(s): Gore Vidal
ISBN: 1-258-32717-1 / 978-1-258-32717-0 (USA edition)
Publisher: Literary Licensing, LLC
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA