A recent correction in The New York Times apologized abjectly as follows:
“An obituary about the author Gore Vidal in
some copies on Wednesday included several
errors….[A]ccording to Mr. Vidal’s memoir
‘Palimpsest’, he and his long-time live-in companion,
Howard Austen, had sex the night they met, but did not
sleep together after they began living together. It is not
the case that they never had sex.”
In trying to be specific about the sexual habits of this man of letters, the Old Gray Lady has only succeeded in confusing matters further. When The Times asserts they “did not sleep together,” is that a euphemism for having sex, or does it mean literally only that they slumbered in separate beds? And when it says, “It is not the case that they never had sex,” does that mean that the night on which they met was the one time they indulged, or that they may have frequently had sex after they began living together, but not in the beds in which they slept? More investigation is clearly called for!
If only The Times had been around when Dante and Chaucer and Shakespeare walked the earth, think of the insights we might have gained into their lives! Surely a careful reading of La Vita Nuova, by Times reporters, would have disclosed whether Dante and Beatrice, although they never slept together, did, in fact, converge from time to time in a little nook on a Florence side street. And The Times could surely have delved deeply enough into the copious papers left by Chaucer to let us know whether he and Lionel, the Earl of Ulster, were up to something besides a military campaign, while not sleeping together on that long junket to France. And had The Times been able to burrow into Shakespeare’s private life, it surely would have discovered the identity of the “fair youth” to whom the Bard lovingly dedicated his first 126 sonnets—but with whom he never slept.
Speaking of the Bard, that other one, who searches for half-empty wine bottles on the sunny beaches of Buffalo Bayou, he insisted on adding his simpering opinion of Vidal’s sexual habits, and try as I might, I could not stop him:
Said Gore to Howard:
“Though I deflowered
You the night we met,
Would make me cranky
In bed with you, I bet.
I can’t be flirty
While I am counting sheep,
I’m quite oblivious
To things lascivious
And soon fall fast asleep.
When I feel droopy,
I can’t make whoopee,
The thought of it is brutal.
In my pajama
To read the Kama
Sutra would be futile.
But hear me, Howard,
Once shaved and showered,
I like my sex diurnal,
From break of dawn
Till my first yawn—
But not, please note, nocturnal.”