Gore Vidal interviewed in Bookforum.
GORE VIDAL: Yes. There’s no such thing as a famous novelist.
BF: But what about a writer like Salman Rushdie?
GV: He’s moderately well known, but he’s not read by a large public. He’s very good, but "famous" has nothing to do with being good or bad.
BF: A few critics have declared the American novel dead.
GV: I don’t think the novel is dead. I think the readers are dead. The novel doesn’t interest anybody, and that’s largely because there are no famous novelists. Fame means that you are touching everybody or potentially touching everybody with what you’ve done—that they like to think about it and talk about it and exchange views on it.
BF: Novelists used to work the nightly talk-show circuit. It’s hard to believe that there was a time in this country when writers were regarded as celebrities.
GV: I started all of that. I was the first novelist to go on television back in the ’50s, on The Jack Paar Show and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Vidal may be right about there not being famous novelists, but there are famous writers. Trouble is, they’re Jenna Jameson, Courtney Love, etc.
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