Gore Vidal, one of the country's most celebrated post-war writers, died at home in Los Angeles on Tuesday from complications from pneumonia. He was 86.
Vidal's writing career began with the 1946 publication of Williwaw, which was based on his WWII military service, and was soon followed by The City and the Pillar, a novel that caused a stir due to its depiction of homosexuality. Vidal, a prolific writer who was no stranger to controversy, also wrote short stories, television and movie scripts, and plays, and is probably best known for his essays; his United States: Essays 1952-1992 won the 1993 National Book Award for nonfiction. A long-time political activist, Vidal ran an unsuccessful congressional campaign in 1960, challenged Jerry Brown for the governorship of California, and was sued by William F. Buckley, Jr., for libel for a particularly scathing 1969 "Esquire" essay.
In 1984, Vidal, who then lived in Italy, traveled to New York to promote his novel, Lincoln. PW spent some time with Vidal during a day of wall-to-wall interviews conducted at his room at the Plaza Hotel. As ever, Vidal was erudite and full of opinions, notably about the poor state of American letters, and the cold critical reception that always seemed to be waiting for his books. "I'm attacked as if I were the youngest, most dangerous kid in town, with a switchblade, you know," he said.
PW spoke with Vidal again in 2000 upon the publication of The Golden Age, and as a Broadway revival of his 1960 play, The Best Man, was about to open. Then, as ever, he demonstrated why the word "acerbic" often turns up in stories about him.
You can also read PW's reviews of Vidal's books, which are collected below.Gore Vidal: Sexually Speaking: Collected Sex Writings 1960-1998The Golden Age: An American Chronicle NovelThe Essential Gore VidalThe Smithsonian InstitutionUnited States: Essays 1952-1992Screening HistoryHollywood: A Novel of America in the 1920sAt Home: Essays, 1982-1988The Selected Essays of Gore VidalPoint to Point Navigation: A MemoirClouds and Eclipses: The Collected Short StoriesIMPERIAL AMERICAINVENTING A NATION: Washington, Adams, JeffersonDREAMING WAR: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush JuntaPERPETUAL WAR FOR PERPETUAL PEACE: How We Got to Be So HatedTHE LAST EMPIRE: Essays 1992–2000