08/04/2012 04:16 pm ET Updated Oct 04, 2012

Gore Vidal: "If You Don't Use the Right Word, You Don't Have an Idea"

I had interviewed Vidal as a screen writer on "Fellini's Casanova." He playfully mocked the director as "Fred," just another traffic cop to the writer.

Then Vidal rang me 7am on a Sunday in Rome and without a pause he scrutinized 54 pages I had drafted on my year with Fellini. "Accrue. Fellini doesn't 'accrue' power. Bank accounts 'accrue' interest. I know what you want to say, but that word doesn't say it." He swept through every sentence until I blurted, "Don't you like that idea!" "If you don't use the right word, you don't have an idea."

In LA he'd summon me to his house every other Thursday at 4pm where we sat in huge chairs separated by humongous flowers. He started to converse, but I couldn't see him so I stood up. And he said, "No. I practice the art of conversation an hour a day with no visual clues for either party." He'd kick into gear with gossip from Sue Mengers, Ray Stark, the movie business, politics, books, whatever, Italy, honing his spoken word.