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Gore Vidal is Dead; Novelist, Essayist, Irritant, Gadabout

Photo of Gore Vidal

(Photo by Dimitri Halkidis / WENN)

Author Gore Vidal has died at his home in Los Angeles. He was 86. The cause was pneumonia plus heart ailments, says his nephew.

Gore Vidal’s historical novels are now his most famous works: mighty tomes like Burr (1973) and Lincoln (1984) and Empire (1989). But for two decades before Burr, Vidal was more famous as a brainy opinionator and gadabout who was at all the right parties and on all the right TV shows.

He also kept busy irritating all the right people, as seen in this irresistable 1968 exchange with William F. Buckley:

Yes, Vidal called Buckley a “crypto-Nazi” and Buckley called Vidal a “queer” and threatned to slug him in the face.  That’s good TV!

(Vidal got the last laugh, outliving Buckley by four years.)

Gore Vidal also shared a stepfather with Jackie Kennedy and was a distant cousin to former vice president Al Gore. He got around.

The Guardian sums up Vidal this way:

[H]is greatest work was, perhaps, his life itself – an American epic which sprawled beyond literature to encompass Hollywood, Broadway, Washington and the Bay of Naples, with incidental roles for almost every major American cultural and political figure of the 20th century. Vidal, who once said he had “met everyone, but knew no one,” gave JFK the idea for the Peace Corps, was called in to rescue the script for Ben-Hur, ran unsuccessfully for both Congress and the Senate, and got into a fist-fight with Norman Mailer.

See our biography of Gore Vidal »

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