Writer Gore Vidal has died; he was 86. According to the author’s official website, Mr. Vidal passed away on Tuesday. USA Today reports his nephew, Burr Steers, indicating that the writer died at home in the Hollywood Hills of complications from pneumonia and had been sick “quite a while.”
Gore Vidal is the author of 24 novels, five plays, several screenplays, and over 200 essays. He also wrote the acclaimed memoir, Palimpsest and won the 1993 National Book Award for his United States (Essays 1952-92). His book, The Second American Revolution and Other Essays, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism in 1982.
Mr. Vidal is perhaps best known for works seen in their day as controversial. His novel Myra Breckinridge (1968), for example, is described on his website as “a comedy of sex change in a highly mythical Hollywood.” Twenty years earlier, his third book, The City and the Pillar (1948), was noted for its frank and honest storyline about the protagonist discovering his homosexuality. According to USA Today, it was the first widely-known American novel to do so.
The writer’s interests also ran to politics and American government. His series of novels viewing American history from the viewpoint of one family have earned him praise from fellow authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez. These books are Washington, D.C. (1967), Burr (1973), 1876 (1976), Lincoln (1984), Empire (1987), and Hollywood (1990). Burr and Lincoln were both bestsellers.
Besides writing about the subject of politics, Mr. Vidal also lived it — he ran for a New York Congressional seat in 1960, and came in second in 1982 in the California Democratic senatorial primary. He frequently made appearances where he was asked to speak about his political views and seemed to enjoy spirited debate.
He also had an interest in film and popular culture. Among film involvements, including writing screenplays for Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) and Billy the Kid (1989), he made a cameo appearance in Frederico Fellini’s film Roma in the 1960s. He provided his voice for characters in the TV shows The Simpsons and Family Guy.
Mr. Vidal had a colorful life outside of his writing that had many connections to power, money, and fame. His grandfather was Senator T. P. Gore (making him distantly related to former vice-president, Al Gore). His father was the first flight instructor at West Point and a founder of TWA. His mother was a socialite whom he claimed, according to USA Today, had an affair with Clark Gable. His own associations included friendships with John and Jacqueline Kennedy and actors Paul and Joanne Newman and Susan Sarandon.
RIP, Gore Vidal.
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