Michele Bachmann claims that Gore Vidal’s novel Burr made her into a Republican.
“It’s very interesting because I had been a Democrats — and I’d actually worked on Jimmy Carter’s campaign. And I was reading a novel by Gore Vidal, and when I was reading it he was mocking the Founding Fathers. And all of a sudden it just occurred to me: I set the book down on my lap, I looked out the window of a train I was riding in, and I thought to myself, ‘I don’t think I’m a Democrat. I think I really am a Republican.’ Because the Founding Fathers were not the characters that I saw Gore Vidal portraying in his novel.
“And that snotty, mocking attitude, to me didn’t reflect in any way who we are as a nation. And I just thought that’s a completely different philosophical view of the United States. And I know that Gore Vidal has passed away today, I understood he was 86 years old. And it’s interesting how his work — while he intended I think one particular way — it was used actually to help me see a completely different way, which is the conservative way. And I started then examining the conservative position, and realized at heart I really am a conservative. And that’s far more reflective of American values, than the values that Gore Vidal was espousing.”
I have a newfound—and sincere—respect for Bachmann. Seriously: how many of us can say a book changed our lives?
Her comment reminds me of what George Steiner used to say about the KGB: they were the only ones who took literature seriously.