Friday, August 27, 2004

Gore Vidal's Villa Up for Grabs

The Times had a wonderful piece in yesterday's edition about the aging, dyspeptic writer Gore Vidal, and his decision to sell his famous villa in Ravello, on Italy's stunning Amalfi coast. After the recent death of his longtime lover, it seems he wants to move back to Hollywood fulltime (egad). The piece was one of the longest, most-detailed real estate ads in history. It included the fact that he's asking $17 million for the 5,000-square-foot villa perched on a hill, but somehow omits the price he paid for it 30 years ago. But who cares, really, with those beautiful photos of his view, and some even more beautiful sentences sprinkled throughout. The piece talks about "pasta-infested" dinners for visiting luminaries. But my favorite line was this: "Houses in Ravello are opportunistic, built where the slopes give way to small ledges, just as wildflowers find cracks in the high walls holding up terraced fields." With writing that lovely and visual, you almost don't need accompanying photos.

Elsewhere in the Times, David Carr, who has covered the media brilliantly for a couple of years but who has been angling to get off that beat in order to spread his wings on other topics, yesterday showed why the editors were smart to just let him write about whatever the hell he wants. The middle-aged writer, who has overcome a heroin addiction, shows why his star continues to ascend in the profession, by rendering this brilliant piece on the culture clash between D.C. (which he knows well as the former editor of the town's alt-weekly) and New York. Here's the payoff passage:
In spite of sharing an interstate and a conviction that the universe pivots on them, Washington and New York have never got on well. Each city views the other through the wrong end of the telescope and lasers in on the other's shortcomings. Washington, seen from Manhattan, is drab and humid, a swamp-city populated by doughy people in brown suits and heinous ties that always seem to be askew. And many Washingtonians return the disregard by lampooning New York's pointless clatter, a big noisy town whose chief product seems to be some tawdry combination of smoke and mirrors.
That, my friends, is writing which demands to be read.


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