US author Gore Vidal dies aged 86


Celebrated US writer and commentator Gore Vidal dies aged 86

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Celebrated writer and political commentator Gore Vidal has died aged 86, his family has confirmed.

He died at his home in Los Angeles on Tuesday evening, with the cause of death believed to be complications from pneumonia.

Gore Vidal produced 25 novels, including the best-selling Burr and Myra Breckenridge, more than 200 essays and several plays.

He also ran for political office twice and was a well-known commentator.

His nephew Burr Steers told US media that his uncle had been ill "for quite a while".

Sir David Frost, who interviewed Vidal, paid tribute to the writer saying he was "a great literary figure".

"He was also an outstanding subject for interviews," he told the BBC.

He was among a generation of literary writers who were also genuine celebrities - fixtures on chat shows and in gossip columns.

His circle included Tennessee Williams, Orson Welles and Frank Sinatra.

He was also closely linked to the Kennedy family, becoming a confidant of Jackie Kennedy, who was his stepsister.

Vidal ran for a seat in Congress in 1960 and again in 1982, but lost both times.

Legendary feuds

He wrote his first book aged 19 and later went on to become one of America's most distinguished authors.

But his career path was not straightforward.

Gore Vidal was a literary, political and intellectual heavyweight of global stature.

He said he really wanted to be a politician but found he was born a writer. He got around the problem by inserting politics into his work - whether that was social critique, or American history or essays on the contemporary political scene.

He was a passionate isolationist, who believe the two great evils of the world were hypocrisy and dishonesty - and said that, in America, he found a way to explore them both ad nauseam.

His second book, The City and the Pillar, tackled homosexuality, making it highly controversial at the time.

Bookshops refused to stock it, and he was ostracised for most of the 1950s and forced to work under pseudonyms.

In the late 1950s he began to write under his own name again, working on the screenplay to Ben Hur, among other films.

Eventually in the 1970s and 80s he was widely feted for his historical novels based on the lives of US figures such as Abraham Lincoln.

But he was not always comfortable with the literary and political establishment.

He had long-running spats with his contemporaries, conservative pundit William F Buckley Jr and writer Norman Mailer, whom Vidal once likened to killer Charles Manson.

His feud with Buckley was legendary, with the pair coming to blows several times and trading insults on national television while working as pundits on the 1968 Democratic convention.

He once described Truman Capote as a "filthy animal that has found its way into the house."

Born in 1925, Eugene Luther Vidal was the scion of one of America's grandest political dynasties.

His grandfather, TP Gore, was a senator and his father a one-time Secretary of Aviation under President Franklin D Roosevelt.

He was also a distant cousin of former Vice President Al Gore.

He took his mother's maiden name Gore and used it as his first name.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    Gore Vidal was one of favourite authors & outspoken critics on just about anything that peeved him, and he was usually right. A great mind lost to the world.
    He told "it" like he saw it: the 2 greatest evils in this world are hypocrisy & dishonesty - & then added: in America, he found a way to explore them both...

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    Vidal very often exposed and chastized the right wing elements in american society, he was brutal in his descriptions of them, they hated him because they could not find a way to rebuff him, the logic of his statements on the american political spectrum were implacable. He told the truth to a public that often did not want to hear it as is the case this election round. Reason is out idiocy rules.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    Today America lost a great man. Gore Vidal always told it like it was although it did tend to offend many right-wing fanatics of his day. Now I expect many of these same people to make unflattering and unkind remarks about him because they didn't like some of things that he said!

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    Comment number 30.

    Vidal was wonderful - outside of the novels and the plays and the screenplays, he was one of the world's great essayists. I had the happy chance to interview him for LBC when he published Palimpsest, and he was dazzling for an hour while we recorded him, and afterwards he broke out of the scotch and entertained us dazzlingly for another hour and a half off the clock.


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