Feud awakening

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Good literary feuds tend to be more tame and infrequent than they were back in the day when Mary McCarthy quipped that "every word" Lillian Hellman wrote was "a lie, including and and the." But this week, Gore Vidal, the cranky veteran of verbal sallies, launched an attack on Edmund White, calling him "slimy" and "sleazy." He's angry about White's recent play, Terre Haute, which puts a sexual spin on Vidal's relationship with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Vidal and McVeigh exchanged letters before the latter's execution in 2001, but never met in person. In White's version, however, Vidal is sexually drawn to the condemned man, and visits him in jail. The two authors are already getting nasty. Vidal plans to sue White in Britain, where the play has been staged and where libel laws are notably strict. Meanwhile, White says that Vidal is being "silly," and that "he can't write." Burn!

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