Iconoclastic American author Gore Vidal dead at 86

Gore Vidal in 2005.

Writer Gore Vidal, who filled his novels and essays with acerbic observations on politics, sex and American culture while carrying on feuds with his big-name literary rivals, died on Tuesday. He was 86.

His official website posted a memoriam, and media reports cited his Los Angeles nephew Burr Steers as confirming the legendary American writer’s death.

“Vidal died Tuesday at his home in the Hollywood Hills of complications of pneumonia,” Steers told the Los Angeles Times.

Vidal’s literary legacy includes a series of historical novels – “Burr,” “1876,” “Lincoln” and “The Golden Age” among them – as well as the campy transsexual comedy “Myra Breckenridge”.

He started writing as a 19-year-old soldier stationed in Alaska, basing “Williwaw” on his World War Two experiences. His third book, “The City and the Pillar,” created a sensation in 1948 because it was one of the first open portrayals of a homosexual main character.

Vidal referred to himself as a “gentleman bitch” and was as egotistical and caustic as he was elegant and brilliant.

In addition to rubbing shoulders with the great writers of his time, he banged heads with many of them. Vidal considered Ernest Hemingway a joke and compared Truman Capote to a “filthy animal that has found its way into the house”.

His most famous literary enemies were conservative pundit William F. Buckley Jr. and writer Norman Mailer, who Vidal once likened to cult killer Charles Manson.

Mailer head-butted Vidal before a television appearance and on another occasion knocked him to the ground.

Vidal and Buckley took their feud to live national television while serving as commentators at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Vidal accused Buckley of being a “pro-crypto-Nazi” while Buckley called Vidal a “queer” and threatened to punch him.

Vidal seemed to make no effort to curb his abundant ego.

In a 2008 interview with Esquire magazine Vidal said people always seemed impressed that he had met so many famous people, such as Jacqueline Kennedy and William Burroughs.

“People always put that sentence the wrong way around,” he said. “I mean, why not put it the true way – that these people got to meet me, and wanted to?”

NEPHEW OF SENATOR

Eugene Luther Vidal Jr. was born on October 3, 1925 in West Point, New York, and eventually took his mother’s surname as his first name. He grew up in Washington, D.C., where his grandfather, Democratic U.S. Sen. Thomas Gore of Oklahoma, had a strong influence on the boy. The young Vidal developed an interest in politics as he read to the blind senator and led him about town.

He went to exclusive private secondary schools but did not attend college.

After his parents divorced, Vidal’s mother married Hugh Auchincloss, who later also became the stepfather of Jacqueline Kennedy. That connection gave Vidal access to the Kennedy White House before a falling out with the family.

After early success, his literary career stalled – perhaps because of the controversy of “The City and the Pillar” – and he concentrated on television and movie scripts.

Vidal got back on track in the 1960s with “Julian,” about a Roman emperor; “Washington, D.C.,” the tale of a political family; and “Myra Breckenridge.” Bigger success followed with recreations of historical U.S. figures – such as Aaron Burr and Abraham Lincoln – that analyze where Vidal thought America fell from grace.

Vidal also was known for his sharp essays on society, sex, literature and politics. He was especially fervent about politics and what he considered to be the death of “the American Empire”.

“The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along, paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return,” he once said.

In 1960 Vidal, a distant cousin of former vice president Al Gore, ran unsuccessfully for a congressional seat in New York and in 1982 failed in a bid for a California Senate seat.

He once described the United States as “the land of the dull and the home of the literal” and starting in the 1960s lived much of the time in a seaside Italian villa. He moved back permanently in 2003, shortly before Howard Austen, his companion of more than 50 years, died of cancer.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

New statue of Penn State's Paterno set for…

By David DeKokHARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Fundraising for a new statue depicting Joe Paterno "as the man he was and not Joe the football coach"…

National

On newly released tape, 'Squeaky' Fromme says was…

Manson Family member Squeaky Fromme told a mental health examiner in newly released interview the "X" she carved in her forehead was meant to separate her from "the system."

Local

New York-based Century 21 store coming to The…

The former Strawbridge & Clothier building will once again host a department store. City officials on Thursday announced New York-based Century 21 Department Stores will…

National

Electric Zoo tickets on sale Tuesday as festival…

Electric Zoo tickets go on sale Tuesday. The festival announced plans to amp up security after two attendees died last year from apparent drug overdoses.

Music

Championship of Collegiate a Cappella: Students who are…

Tickets to this Saturday’s International Championship of Collegiate a Cappella reportedly sold out within 11 hours of going on sale.

Music

M.I.A. talks 'Matangi,' divinity, spontaneity and holograms

"There’s pressure for me to become a theatrical production like 'Glee,' or something" says M.I.A., "It’s like, 'the pressure’s on, bitches.'"

Movies

Tribeca: 'Goodbye to All That' star Paul Schneider…

Paul Schneider talks about his new film "Goodbye to All That," not acting too much and how he'd rather indulge in simple pleasures than play the scene.

The Word

Taylor Swift battles paparazzi daily at Tribeca penthouse

We're entranced by these photos of poor Taylor Swift leaving her Tribeca apartment.

NBA

Jason Collins named to Time's 100 Most Influential…

Jason Collins was named to the list after coming out as the first openly gay player to appear in an NBA game.

MLB

The return of Cole Hamels brings optimism

Cole Hamels’ quality start Wednesday was a nice change of pace from his recent season debuts.

MLB

Tony Gwynn Jr. a nice surprise for Phillies

Tony Gwynn Jr. has been a plus in every way for the Phillies.

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

Food

Hai Street Kitchen opening in Rittenhouse May 22

Japanese cuisine will get a Chipotle-style twist at Hai Street Kitchen & Co., a new casual, quick-food restaurant opening near Rittenhouse Square on May 22.…

Parenting

New study: Inside the wage gap between boys…

According to a new study, there's a wage gap between boys and girls, with boys earning more allowance for less chores.

Tech

From Apple TV to Fire TV, big changes…

Apple is set to launch a new generation of it's Apple TV, which grossed over $1 billion in 2013. But competition from Amazon and Google looms.

Style

Katy Perry releases a new Claire’s collection

Katy Perry expands her empire by releasing an accessories collection at Claire's.