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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  • Comment number 198.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 197.

    "It makes no difference who you vote for - the two parties are really one party representing four percent of the people" - Gore Vidal.

  • Comment number 196.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 195.

    9/11 God only knows, I have my suspicions, but can't prove anything, untill then I will play lip service to the official line.
    BTW I know little about this Gore Vidal character but he seems to be a heavyweight, is he comparable at all to Olberman

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    186. Peter

    OK have you seen "WTC7 collapse"?

    Before U, yet again put words in my mouth I am not in denial that the CONTROLLED DEMOLITION that took place on 9/11 was not the big part of this operation

    1ST of all U would need access of cause, undisturbed by security/ CCTV etc So was this taken down weeks before 9/11?

    Also having someone at the top of the security company would help SO WHO WAS IT

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    So, we have a massive debate on 9/11 and my comment which was merely asking where the towers went was censored.

    Hmmm, thankyou BBC, you've given me a lot of information right there.

    Lucky I took a screenshot before you deleted it.

  • 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!

  • Comment number 191.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 190.

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    Comment number 189.

    Love him or hate him Vidal always made his readers think and he did it with wit and style. His observations on American cilture and politics were often keenly insightful and always entertaining (well, perhaps not to the politicians on the receiving end). Anyone interested in Abraham Lincoln owes it themself to read his book on the man.

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    Comment number 188.

    @Peter Sym and JC.

    I'm not claiming you are wrong or right. But when I see a demolition, I see a pile of rubble afterwards.

    All I saw on 9/11 was dust, lots and lots of dust.

    The pile of rubble I saw was no bigger than the pile of rubble from a block of flats I saw demolished in my youth.

    I'd love to know who caused the towers to come down. But first I'd like to know where they went.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    Again U seem 2B putting me in a place which belongs in your imagination & expanding on it. This is evidence of someone who is uncourageous in confronting their fears / insecurities

    As an example I HAVE NOT STATED I KNOW ALL THE INs & OUTS OF 9/11 but i have stated what I saw was a blag! The evidence shows that WTC7 was a CONTROLLED DEMOLITION with your apparent experience you must be in denial

  • Comment number 186.

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    Comment number 185.

    A narcisist of the first order who outside of his literay creation was ignorant about the world politics and life.

    He was wrong in almost everything.

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    Comment number 184.

    177. Peter_Sym

    Freedom of speech umm (though thats an illusion of cause, a mask from which a bankster tyranny can hide behind)

    The army aye. Well like I say i understand your fear BUT I also have some experience with controlled demolition and I find it very hard to accept that with your stated experience that U can not look at WTC7 & see CONTROLLED DEMOLITION!

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    @182 Peter_Sym

    Well, said. I feel the same myself.

    I don't know what happened, but I know what I saw.

    A professor in the USA once said on the subject, get the evidence, take away what is impossible and everything left is a theory.

  • Comment number 182.

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    Comment number 181.

    175. Peter_Sym
    I think the "issue" here is YOU think your more intelligent than YOU actually are that YOU could not have been suckered

    Also its frightening to think that actually all the politicians give YOU is the illusion of choice THE FACT is that YOU like me are a SLAVE

    To do something about it you must first admit it & seeing who really pulls the strings is a helpful step

    All the best:)

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    The man was as canny at predicting the future as he was dissecting the present. As the Soviet Union fell apart I saw him interviewed. He stated that the military industrial complex would need a new bogeyman and that Islam fitted the bill. I don't agree with the wild-eyed nonsense about controlled demolition of the Twin Towers etc., but I believe 9/11 (or something like it) was allowed to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    @keithkettlewell - 8 Hours ago - I will miss his unique, often humerous, insight into American politics and culture . He had a fearless knack of eluminating dark and shady areas of contempory society both home and abroad like no one else .

    Excellent comment apart from the spelling of illuminate - "eluminate"? BBC can we have a spellcheck on HYS?


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