Gore Vidal lives in a run-down penthouse above Rome’s Largo Argentina: reconstructed temples from the pre-Augustan era are set incongruously in the middle of what looks to be Columbus Circle without the charm. It is August. Rome is deserted. The heat is breathtaking during the day, but at sundown a cool wind starts and the birds swarm in the blue-gold Tiepolo sky. He sits on a large terrace lined with plants in need of watering.
In photographs, or on television, Gore Vidal appears to be dark-haired and somewhat slight. He is neither. He stands six feet; his chest is broad and deep (a legacy of Alpine ancestors); despite constant attendance at a gymnasium, the once flat stomach is now reorganizing itself as a most definite paunch. He regards his own deterioration with fascination: “After all, in fifteen months I shall be fifty,” he declares, apparently pleased and disturbed in equal parts.