Gore Vidal

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Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal 3 Shankbone 2009 NYC cropped.jpg
Vidal in New York City to discuss his 2009 book, Gore Vidal: Snapshots in History's Glare
Born Eugene Louis Vidal
(1925-10-03)October 3, 1925
West Point, New York, U.S.
Died July 31, 2012(2012-07-31) (aged 86)
Hollywood Hills, California, U.S.
Pen name Edgar Box
Cameron Kay
Katherine Everard
Occupation Novelist, essayist, journalist, playwright
Nationality American
Period 1944–2012
Genres Drama, fictional prose, essay, literary criticism
Literary movement Postmodernism
Partner(s) Howard Austen
(1950-2003; Austen's death)

Eugene Luther Gore Vidal (/ˌɡɔr vɨˈdɑːl/;[1][2] born Eugene Louis Vidal, October 3, 1925 – July 31, 2012) was an American writer known for his essays, novels, screenplays, and Broadway plays. As a well-known public intellectual, he was known for his patrician manner and witty aphorisms. Vidal's grandfather was the U.S. Senator Thomas Gore of Oklahoma.

A lifelong Democrat, Gore ran for political office twice and was a seasoned political commentator. As well known for his essays as his novels, Vidal wrote for The Nation, New Statesman, the New York Review of Books and Esquire. Vidal's major subject was America, and through his essays and media appearances he was a longtime critic of American foreign policy. He developed this into a portrayal of the United States as a decaying empire from the 1980s onwards. He was also known for well-publicized spats with such figures as Norman Mailer, William F. Buckley, Jr. and Truman Capote.

His most widely regarded social novel was Myra Breckinridge; his best known historical novels included Julian, Burr, and Lincoln. His third novel, The City and the Pillar (1948), outraged conservative critics as one of the first major American novels to feature unambiguous homosexuality. Vidal rejected the terms of "homosexual" and "heterosexual" as inherently false, claiming that the vast majority of individuals had the potential to be pansexual. His screenwriting credits include the epic historical drama Ben-Hur (1959), which also won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1959.

Early life[edit]

Vidal was born Eugene Louis Vidal in West Point, New York, the only child of Eugene Luther Vidal (1895–1969) and Nina Gore (1903–1978).[3] The middle name, Louis, was a mistake on the part of his father, "who could not remember for certain whether his own name was Eugene Louis or Eugene Luther."[4] As Vidal explained in his memoir Palimpsest (Deutsch, 1995), "... my birth certificate says 'Eugene Louis Vidal': this was changed to Eugene Luther Vidal, Jr.; then Gore was added at my christening [in 1939]; then at fourteen I got rid of the first two names."[5]

Vidal was born in the Cadet Hospital of the United States Military Academy (West Point), where his father, a first lieutenant, was the first aeronautics instructor. According to Conversations with Gore Vidal, the future writer was not baptised until January 1939, at age 13, by the headmaster of St. Albans, where Vidal was attending preparatory school. The ceremony took place so Vidal "could be confirmed [into the Episcopal faith] at the Washington Cathedral in February [1939] as Eugene Luther Gore Vidal."[6] He later stated that although Gore was added to his names at the time of the baptism, "I wasn't named for him, although he had a great influence on my life."[7] In 1941,[8] Vidal dropped both of his first two names, saying that he "wanted a sharp, distinctive name, appropriate for an aspiring author or national political leader. 'I wasn't going to write as Gene since there was already one. I didn't want to use the Jr.'"[4]

Photo of Vidal by Carl Van Vechten, 1948

Vidal's father served as director of the Commerce Department's Bureau of Air Commerce (1933–1937) in the Roosevelt administration,[9] was one of the first Army Air Corps pilots and, according to biographer Susan Butler, was the great love of Amelia Earhart's life.[10] In the 1920s and 1930s, he was a co-founder of three American airlines: the Ludington Line, which merged with others and became Eastern Airlines, Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT), which became TWA), and Northeast Airlines, which he founded with Earhart, as well as the Boston and Maine Railroad. The elder Vidal had also been a West Point football quarterback, coach, and captain and an all-American basketball player. He also participated in the 1920 and 1924 Summer Olympics (seventh in the decathlon; U.S. pentathlon team coach).[11][12]

Vidal's mother was a society figure who made her Broadway debut as an extra[13] in Sign of the Leopard in 1928.[14] She married Eugene Luther Vidal, Sr. in 1922 and divorced him in 1935.[15] Two more marriages followed (one to Hugh D. Auchincloss, later the stepfather of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis), and, according to her son, she had "a long off-and-on affair" with actor Clark Gable.[16] As Nina Auchincloss, she was an alternate delegate to the 1940 Democratic National Convention.[17]

Vidal had four half-siblings from his parents' later marriages (Vance Vidal, Valerie Vidal, Thomas Gore Auchincloss, and Nina Gore Auchincloss) and four stepbrothers from his mother's third marriage to Army Air Forces Major General Robert Olds, who died in 1943, ten months after marrying Vidal's mother.[18] Vidal's nephews include the brothers Burr Steers, writer and film director, and painter Hugh Auchincloss Steers (1963–1995).[19][20]

Vidal was raised in Washington, D.C., where he attended Sidwell Friends School and then St. Albans School. Since Senator Gore was blind, his grandson read aloud to him and guided him as a Senate Page. The senator's isolationism contributed a major principle of his grandson's political philosophy, which is critical of foreign and domestic policies shaped by American imperialism.[21] Gore attended St. Albans in 1939, but left to study in France. He returned following the outbreak of World War II and studied at the Los Alamos Ranch School in 1940, later transferring to Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire.[22] Roy Hattersley writes, "for reasons he never explained, he did not go on to Harvard, Yale or Princeton with other members of his social class."[23] Instead, Vidal enlisted in the US Army. He became a warrant officer,[24] serving as first mate on the F.S. 35th, which was berthed at the Dutch Harbor.[13] After three years, he contracted hypothermia, developed rheumatoid arthritis and became a mess officer.

Writing career[edit]

Fiction[edit]

Vidal, whom a Newsweek critic called "the best all-around American man of letters since Edmund Wilson,"[25] began his writing career in 1946, aged twenty-one, with the publication of the military novel Williwaw, based upon his Alaskan Harbor Detachment duty. The novel was about World War II and proved a success for Vidal.[26] Published two years later in 1948, The City and the Pillar caused a furor for its dispassionate presentation of homosexuality. The novel was dedicated to "J.T." Decades later, after a magazine published rumors about J.T.'s identity, Vidal confirmed they were the initials of his alleged St. Albans-era love, James "Jimmy" Trimble III, killed in the Battle of Iwo Jima on March 1, 1945;[27] Vidal later said that Trimble was the only person he had ever loved.[28]

According to Vidal, Orville Prescott, the book critic for the New York Times, found The City and the Pillar so objectionable that he refused to review or allow the Times to review Vidal's next five books.[29] In response, Vidal wrote several mystery novels in the early 1950s under the pseudonym Edgar Box. Featuring public relations man Peter Cutler Sargeant II,[30] their success financed Vidal for more than a decade.[31]

Gore Vidal in 2008 at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

He wrote plays, films, and television series. Two plays, The Best Man (1960) and Visit to a Small Planet (1955), were both Broadway and film successes. Two early television plays were A Sense of Justice (1955) and Honor.[32]

In the 1960s, Vidal wrote three novels. The first, Julian (1964) dealt with the apostate Roman emperor, while the second, Washington, D.C. (1967) focused on a political family during the Franklin D. Roosevelt era. The third was the satirical transsexual comedy Myra Breckinridge (1968), a variation on Vidal's familiar themes of sex, gender, and popular culture. In the novel, Vidal showcased his love of the American films of the '30s and '40s, and he resurrected interest in the careers of the forgotten players of the time including, for example, that of the late Richard Cromwell, who, he wrote, "was so satisfyingly tortured in The Lives of a Bengal Lancer."

After the staging of the plays Weekend (1968) and An Evening With Richard Nixon (1972), and the publication of the novel Two Sisters: A Novel in the Form of a Memoir (1970), Vidal focused on essays and two distinct themes in his fiction. The first strain comprises novels dealing with American history, specifically with the nature of national politics.[33] Critic Harold Bloom wrote, "Vidal's imagination of American politics ... is so powerful as to compel awe." Titles in this series, the Narratives of Empire, include Burr (1973), 1876 (1976), Lincoln (1984), Empire (1987), Hollywood (1990), and The Golden Age (2000). Another title devoted to the ancient world, Creation, appeared in 1981 and then in expanded form in 2002.

The second strain consists of the comedic "satirical inventions": Myron (1974, a sequel to Myra Breckinridge), Kalki (1978), Duluth (1983), Live from Golgotha: The Gospel according to Gore Vidal (1992), and The Smithsonian Institution (1998).

Screenplays[edit]

In 1956, Vidal was hired as a contract screenwriter for Metro Goldwyn Mayer. In 1959, director William Wyler needed script doctors to re-write the script for Ben-Hur, originally written by Karl Tunberg. Vidal collaborated with Christopher Fry, reworking the screenplay on condition that MGM release him from the last two years of his contract. Producer Sam Zimbalist's death complicated the screenwriting credit. The Screen Writers Guild resolved the matter by listing Tunberg as sole screenwriter, denying credit to both Vidal and Fry. This decision was based on the WGA screenwriting credit system, which favors original authors. Vidal later claimed in the documentary film The Celluloid Closet that to explain the animosity between Ben-Hur and Messala, he had inserted a gay subtext suggesting that the two had had a prior relationship, but that actor Charlton Heston was oblivious.[34] Heston denied that Vidal contributed significantly to the script.[35] Vidal accused Heston of being a compulsive liar and a bad actor.[13]

Two plays, The Best Man (1960) and Visit to a Small Planet (1955), were both Broadway and film successes.

Vidal occasionally returned to writing for film and television, including the television movie Gore Vidal's Billy the Kid with Val Kilmer and the mini-series Lincoln.

He also wrote the original draft for the controversial film Caligula, but later had his name removed when director Tinto Brass and actor Malcolm McDowell rewrote the script, changing the tone and themes significantly. The producers later made an attempt to salvage some of Vidal's vision in the film's post-production.[36]

Essays and memoirs[edit]

Vidal is — at least in the United States — respected more for his essays than his novels.[37] Even an occasionally hostile critic like Martin Amis admitted, "Essays are what he is good at ... [h]e is learned, funny and exceptionally clear-sighted. Even his blind spots are illuminating."

For six decades, Gore Vidal applied himself to a wide variety of sociopolitical, sexual, historical and literary themes. In 1987, Vidal wrote the essays titled "Armageddon," exploring the intricacies of power in contemporary America. He pilloried the incumbent president Ronald Reagan as a "triumph of the embalmer's art." In 1993, he won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for the collection United States: Essays 1952–1992.[38] According to the citation, "Whatever his subject, he addresses it with an artist's resonant appreciation, a scholar's conscience and the persuasive powers of a great essayist."[39]

A subsequent collection of essays, published in 2000, is The Last Empire. He subsequently published such self-described "pamphlets" as Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta, and Imperial America, critiques of American expansionism, the military-industrial complex, the national security state and the George W. Bush administration. Vidal also wrote a historical essay about the U.S.'s founding fathers, Inventing a Nation. In 1995, he published a memoir Palimpsest, and in 2006 its follow-up volume, Point to Point Navigation. Earlier that year, Vidal also published Clouds and Eclipses: The Collected Short Stories.

Because of his matter-of-fact treatment of same-sex relations in such books as The City and The Pillar, Vidal is often seen as an early champion of sexual liberation.[40] In the September 1969 edition of Esquire, for example, Vidal wrote:

We are all bisexual to begin with. That is a fact of our condition. And we are all responsive to sexual stimuli from our own as well as from the opposite sex. Certain societies at certain times, usually in the interest of maintaining the baby supply, have discouraged homosexuality. Other societies, particularly militaristic ones, have exalted it. But regardless of tribal taboos, homosexuality is a constant fact of the human condition and it is not a sickness, not a sin, not a crime ... despite the best efforts of our puritan tribe to make it all three. Homosexuality is as natural as heterosexuality. Notice I use the word 'natural,' not normal.[41]

In 1995, Jay Parini was appointed as Vidal's literary executor.[42]

In 2009, he won the annual Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation, which called him a "prominent social critic on politics, history, literature and culture."[43]

Acting appearances and popular culture[edit]

In the 1960s, Vidal moved to Italy; he gave a cameo appearance in Federico Fellini's film Roma. In 1992, Vidal appeared in the film Bob Roberts (starring Tim Robbins) and appeared in other films, notably Gattaca, With Honors, and Igby Goes Down, which was directed by his nephew Burr Steers. In 2005 he appeared as himself in artist Francesco Vezzoli's "Trailer for the Remake of Gore Vidal's Caligula" piece of video art, which was included in the 2005 Venice Biennale and is in the permanent collection of the Guggenheim Museum.[44] Vidal voiced himself on both The Simpsons and Family Guy and appeared on the Da Ali G Show, where Ali G mistakes him for Vidal Sassoon. He provided the narrative for the Royal National Theatre's production of Brecht's Mother Courage in the autumn of 2009.

Vidal was portrayed as a child in Amelia (2009) by Canadian actor William Cuddy, and as a young adult in Infamous (2006), the story of Truman Capote, by American actor Michael Panes.

Comedian Robin Williams depicted him as a drunk trying to push Thunderbird wine in a commercial on his first stand-up album, Reality...What a Concept. The weekly American sketch comedy television program Rowan & Martin's Laugh-in did a recurring theme covertly featuring his personality by Lily Tomlin as Ernestine the Telephone Operator, such as one titled: "Mr. Veedul, this is the Phone Company calling! (snort! snort!)" (but other citations are spelled as; "Veedle").[45][46] This skit theme was also recorded other places such as Tomlin's album This Is a Recording titled "Mr. Veedle" by Rhapsody Records.[47]

Political views and activities[edit]

Besides his politician grandfather, Vidal had other connections with the Democratic Party: his mother, Nina, married Hugh D. Auchincloss, Jr., who later was stepfather of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. Gore Vidal is a fifth cousin of Jimmy Carter.[citation needed] Vidal also may have been a distant cousin of Al Gore.[48][49]

In 1960, Gore Vidal was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress, losing an election in New York's 29th congressional district, a traditionally Republican district on the Hudson River, encompassing all of Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Schoharie, and Ulster Counties to J. Ernest Wharton, by a margin of 57% to 43%.[50] Campaigning with a slogan of "You'll get more with Gore", he received the most votes any Democrat in 50 years received in that district. Among his supporters were Eleanor Roosevelt, Paul Newman, and Joanne Woodward; the latter two, longtime friends of Vidal's, campaigned for him and spoke on his behalf.[51]

On the December 15, 1971 taping of The Dick Cavett Show, with Janet Flanner, Norman Mailer allegedly head-butted Vidal during an altercation prior to their appearance on the show.[52] Asked by a journalist what comment he had about Mailer's head-butting him backstage, Gore dead-panned, "Once again, words failed Norman Mailer." [53] During the taping of the show, there was a legendary on-camera feud between Vidal and Mailer[54] over what Vidal had written about the latter, prompting Mailer to say: "I've had to smell your works from time to time."[55] Mailer was apparently irate at Vidal's concealed reference to an incident where Mailer had stabbed his wife.

From 1970 to 1972, Vidal was one of the chairmen of the People's Party.[56] In 1971, he wrote an article in Esquire advocating consumer advocate Ralph Nader for president in the 1972 election.[57]

In 1982, he campaigned against incumbent Governor Jerry Brown for the Democratic primary election to the United States Senate from California. Vidal prophetically announced that their Republican opponent would take the race.[13] This was documented in the film Gore Vidal: The Man Who Said No directed by Gary Conklin.

Vidal's favorite U.S. politician during his lifetime was populist Louisiana Governor Huey Long.[58] Frequently identified with Democratic causes and personalities,[59][60] Vidal wrote in the 1970s:

There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party ... and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt—until recently ... and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.[61]

Despite this, Vidal said "I think of myself as a conservative."[62] Vidal had a protective, almost proprietary attitude toward his native land and its politics: "My family helped start [this country]", he wrote, "and we've been in political life ... since the 1690s, and I have a very possessive sense about this country."[63] At a 1999 lecture in Dublin, Vidal said:

A characteristic of our present chaos is the dramatic migration of tribes. They are on the move from east to west, from south to north. Liberal tradition requires that borders must always be open to those in search of safety or even the pursuit of happiness. But now with so many millions of people on the move, even the great-hearted are becoming edgy. Norway is large enough and empty enough to take in 40 to 50 million homeless Bengalis. If the Norwegians say that, all in all, they would rather not take them in, is this to be considered racism? I think not. It is simply self-preservation, the first law of species.”[64]

He suggested that President Roosevelt deliberately provoked the Japanese to attack the United States at Pearl Harbor to facilitate American entry to the war, and believed FDR had advance knowledge of the attack.[65] During an interview in the 2005 documentary Why We Fight, Vidal asserts that during the final months of World War II, the Japanese had tried to surrender to the United States, to no avail. He said, "They were trying to surrender all that summer, but Truman wouldn't listen, because Truman wanted to drop the bombs." When the interviewer asked why, Vidal replied, "To show off. To frighten Stalin. To change the balance of power in the world. To declare war on communism. Perhaps we were starting a pre-emptive world war."[66]

During domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh's imprisonment, Vidal corresponded with McVeigh and concluded that he bombed the federal building as retribution for the FBI's role in the 1993 Branch Davidian Compound massacre near Waco in Elk, Texas.[67]

Vidal was a member of the advisory board of The World Can't Wait, a left-wing organization seeking to repudiate the Bush administration's program, and advocated the impeachment of George W. Bush for war crimes.[68]

Gore Vidal and former U.S. Senator George McGovern at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, August 26, 2009

In 1997, Vidal was one of 34 celebrities to sign an open letter to then-German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, published as a newspaper advertisement in the International Herald Tribune, which protested the treatment of Scientologists in Germany.[69] Despite this, Vidal was fundamentally critical of Scientology.[70]

Vidal contributed an article to The Nation in which he expressed support for Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, citing him as "the most eloquent of the lot" and that Kucinich "is very much a favorite out there in the amber fields of grain".[71]

In April 2009, Vidal accepted appointment to the position of honorary president of the American Humanist Association, succeeding Kurt Vonnegut.[72]

On September 30, 2009, British newspaper The Times published a lengthy interview with him headlined "We’ll have a dictatorship soon in the US—The grand old man of letters Gore Vidal claims America is ‘rotting away’—and don’t expect Barack Obama to save it," which updates his views on his own life, and a variety of political subjects.[73]

Vidal versus Buckley[edit]

In 1968, ABC News invited Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr. to be political analysts of the Republican and Democratic presidential conventions.[74] Verbal and nearly physical combat ensued. After days of mutual bickering, their debates degraded to vitriolic, ad hominem attacks. During discussions of the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests, the men were arguing about freedom of speech with regard to American protesters displaying a Viet Cong flag when Vidal told Buckley to "shut up a minute", after Buckley had interrupted him, and, in response to Buckley's reference to "pro-Nazi" protesters, went on to say: "As far as I'm concerned, the only sort of pro-crypto-Nazi I can think of is yourself." The visibly livid Buckley replied, "Now listen, you queer. Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi, or I'll sock you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered." After an interruption by anchor and facilitator Howard K. Smith,[13] the men continued to discuss the topic in a less hostile manner.[75] Buckley later expressed regret for having called Vidal a "queer," but nonetheless described Vidal as an "evangelist for bisexuality."[76]

Later, in 1969, the feud was continued as Buckley further attacked Vidal in the lengthy essay, "On Experiencing Gore Vidal", published in the August 1969 issue of Esquire. The essay is collected in The Governor Listeth, an anthology of Buckley's writings of the time. In a key passage attacking Vidal as an apologist for homosexuality, Buckley wrote, "The man who in his essays proclaims the normalcy of his affliction [i.e., homosexuality], and in his art the desirability of it, is not to be confused with the man who bears his sorrow quietly. The addict is to be pitied and even respected, not the pusher."

Vidal responded in the September 1969 issue of Esquire, variously characterizing Buckley as "anti-black", "anti-semitic", and a "warmonger".[41] The presiding judge in Buckley's subsequent libel suit against Vidal initially concluded that "[t]he court must conclude that Vidal's comments in these paragraphs meet the minimal standard of fair comment. The inferences made by Vidal from Buckley's [earlier editorial] statements cannot be said to be completely unreasonable."[citation needed] However, Vidal also strongly implied that, in 1944, Buckley and unnamed siblings had vandalized a Protestant church in their Sharon, Connecticut, hometown after the pastor's wife had sold a house to a Jewish family. Buckley sued Vidal and Esquire for libel. Vidal counter-claimed for libel against Buckley, citing Buckley's characterization of Vidal's novel Myra Breckinridge as pornography.[citation needed]

The court dismissed Vidal's counter-claim.[77] Buckley settled for $115,000 in attorney's fees and an editorial statement from Esquire magazine that they were "utterly convinced" of the untruthfulness of Vidal's assertion.[78] However, in a letter to Newsweek, the Esquire publisher stated that "the settlement of Buckley's suit against us" was not "a 'disavowal' of Vidal's article. On the contrary, it clearly states that we published that article because we believed that Vidal had a right to assert his opinions, even though we did not share them."

As Vidal's biographer, Fred Kaplan, later commented, "The court had 'not' sustained Buckley's case against Esquire ... [t]he court had 'not' ruled that Vidal's article was 'defamatory.' It had ruled that the case would have to go to trial in order to determine as a matter of fact whether or not it was defamatory. [italics original.] The cash value of the settlement with Esquire represented 'only' Buckley's legal expenses [not damages based on libel] ... " Ultimately, Vidal bore the cost of his own attorney's fees.

In 2003, this affair re-surfaced when Esquire published Esquire's Big Book of Great Writing, an anthology that included Vidal's essay. Buckley again sued for libel, and Esquire again settled for $55,000 in attorney's fees and $10,000 in personal damages to Buckley.[citation needed]

After Buckley's death on February 27, 2008, Vidal summed up his impressions of his rival with the following obituary on March 20, 2008: "RIP WFB—in hell."[79] In a June 15, 2008, interview with the New York Times, Vidal was asked by Deborah Solomon, "How did you feel when you heard that Buckley died this year?" Vidal responded:

I thought hell is bound to be a livelier place, as he joins forever those whom he served in life, applauding their prejudices and fanning their hatred.[80]

Criticism of the George W. Bush administration[edit]

Vidal was strongly critical of the George W. Bush administration, once describing Bush as "the stupidest man in the United States"[81] and listing his administration as one of those he considered to have either an explicit or implicit expansionist agenda.[82] He also subscribed to the view that for several years the Bush administration and their associates aimed to control the petroleum of Central Asia (after gaining effective control of the petroleum of the Persian Gulf in 1991).[83]

In May 2007, discussing the many conspiracy theories surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, Vidal said:

I'm not a conspiracy theorist, I'm a conspiracy analyst. Everything the Bushites touch is screwed up. They could never have pulled off 9/11, even if they wanted to. Even if they longed to. They could step aside, though, or just go out to lunch while these terrible things were happening to the nation. I believe that of them.[84]

Personal life[edit]

A photo of Vidal by Carl Van Vechten

Vidal had affairs with both men and women. The novelist Anaïs Nin claimed an involvement with Vidal in her memoir The Diary of Anaïs Nin but Vidal denied it in his memoir Palimpsest. Vidal also discussed having dalliances with people such as actress Diana Lynn, and alluded to the possibility that he may have a daughter.[85] He was briefly engaged to Joanne Woodward, before she married Paul Newman; after eloping, the couple shared a house with Vidal in Los Angeles for a short time. In 1950, he met his long-term partner, Howard Austen.[86] Vidal once reported that the secret to his lengthy relationship with Austen was that they did not have sex with each other: "It's easy to sustain a relationship when sex plays no part and impossible, I have observed, when it does."[87]

In 1995, Vidal told Judy Wieder of The Advocate magazine that he refused to call himself gay because he was not an adjective. "To be categorized is, simply, to be enslaved. Watch out. I have never thought of myself as a victim." Later in the interview, Vidal concedes, "I've said—a thousand times?—in print and on TV that everyone is bisexual." [88]

According to literary critic Harold Bloom, Vidal believed his sexuality had denied him the full recognition of the literary community. Bloom, meanwhile, claimed this had more to do with Vidal's association with the unfashionable genre of historical fiction.[89]

Vidal was an atheist,[90] and humanist, and in 2009 was named honorary president of the American Humanist Association.[91]

During the latter part of the twentieth century Vidal divided his time between Italy and California. In 2003, he sold his 5,000-square-foot (460 m²) Italian villa, La Rondinaia (The Swallow's Nest)[92] on the Amalfi Coast, and moved to Los Angeles. Austen died in November 2003 and, in February 2005, was buried in a plot for himself and Vidal at Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

Vidal died at his home in Hollywood Hills, California, at about 6:45 p.m. PDT July 31, 2012, of complications from pneumonia.[93][94] He was 86.

On September 27, 2013, screenwriter and author Kim Krizan published an article on The Huffington Post revealing she had found a previously unpublished love letter written by Vidal to the diarist Anaïs Nin. This letter contradicts Vidal's previous characterization of his relationship with Nin, showing that Vidal did have feelings for Nin that he later heavily disavowed in his autobiography, Palimpsest. Krizan did this research in the run up to the release of the latest volume of Anaïs Nin's uncensored diary, Mirages, for which Krizan provided the foreword.[95]

Legacy[edit]

After Vidal's death, tributes immediately poured in from various media sources. The New York Times described him in his obituary as being in his old age "an Augustan figure who believed himself to be the last of a breed, and he was probably right. Few American writers have been more versatile or gotten more mileage from their talent."[96] The Los Angeles Times described him as a "literary juggernaut" whose novels and essays were considered "among the most elegant in the English language".[97] The Washington Post remembered him as a "major writer of the modern era" and an "astonishingly versatile man of letters".[98]

In the UK The Guardian said "Vidal's critics disparaged his tendency to formulate an aphorism rather than to argue, finding in his work an underlying note of contempt for those who did not agree with him. His fans, on the other hand, delighted in his unflagging wit and elegant style."[99] The Daily Telegraph described him as "an icy iconoclast" who "delighted in chronicling what he perceived as the disintegration of civilisation around him",[100] while BBC News said he was "one of the finest post-war American writers... an indefatigable critic of the whole American system. Writing in Los Angeles, BBC journalist Alastair Leithead said: "Gore Vidal saw himself as the last of the breed of literary figures who became celebrities in their own right. Never a stranger to chat shows, his wry and witty opinions were sought after as much as his writing."[101]

Popular Spanish publication Ideal reported Vidal's death as a loss to the "culture of the United States" and described him as a "Huge American novelist and essayist".[102] The Italian Il Corriere described him as "the enfant terrible of American culture" and said that he was "one of the giants of American literature".[103] French paper Le Figaro described him as "the Killjoy of America" but also said that he was an "outstanding polemicist" who used words "like high precision weapons."[104]

On August 23, 2012, a celebration of Vidal's life and work was held at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in New York, where a revival of his play The Best Man was running. The tribute, hosted by Dick Cavett, featured personal reminiscences as well as performances of excerpts of Vidal's work from many of his friends and colleagues, including Elizabeth Ashley, Candice Bergen, Hillary Clinton, Alan Cumming, James Earl Jones, Elaine May, Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon, Cybill Shepherd, and Liz Smith.[105]

Bibliography[edit]

Essays and non-fiction[edit]

  • Rocking the Boat (1963)
  • Reflections Upon a Sinking Ship (1969)
  • Sex, Death and Money (1969) (paperback compilation)
  • Homage to Daniel Shays (1972)
  • Matters of Fact and of Fiction (1977)
  • Views from a Window Co-Editor (1981)
  • The Second American Revolution (1983)
  • Vidal In Venice (1985) ISBN 0-671-60691-3
  • Armageddon? (1987) (UK only)
  • At Home (1988)
  • A View From The Diner's Club (1991) (UK only)
  • Screening History (1992) ISBN 0-233-98803-3
  • Decline and Fall of the American Empire (1992) ISBN 1-878825-00-3
  • United States: Essays 1952–1992 (1993) ISBN 0-7679-0806-6 — National Book Award[38]
  • Palimpsest: a memoir (1995) ISBN 0-679-44038-0
  • Virgin Islands (1997) (UK only)
  • The American Presidency (1998) ISBN 1-878825-15-1
  • Sexually Speaking: Collected Sex Writings (1999)
  • The Last Empire: essays 1992–2000 (2001) ISBN 0-375-72639-X (there is also a much shorter UK edition)
  • Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace or How We Came To Be So Hated, Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002, (2002) ISBN 1-56025-405-X
  • Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta, Thunder's Mouth Press, (2002) ISBN 1-56025-502-1
  • Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson (2003) ISBN 0-300-10171-6
  • Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia (2004) ISBN 1-56025-744-X
  • Point to Point Navigation: A Memoir (2006) ISBN 0-385-51721-1
  • The Selected Essays of Gore Vidal (2008) ISBN 0-385-52484-6
  • Gore Vidal: Snapshots in History's Glare (2009) ISBN 0-8109-5049-9

Plays[edit]

Novels[edit]

Screenplays and teleplays[edit]

Media appearances[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "NLS Other Writings". Loc.gov. February 2011. Retrieved November 7, 2011. "Vidal, Gore (və-DÄL)" 
  2. ^ "Gore Vidal Biography". BookBrowse. July 25, 2011. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  3. ^ Vidal, Gore, "West Point and the Third Loyalty", The New York Review of Books, Volume 20, Number 16, October 18, 1973.
  4. ^ a b Kaplan, Fred (1999). "Excerpt: Gore Vidal, A Biography". New York TImes. Retrieved June 12, 2013. 
  5. ^ Gore Vidal, Palimpsest (Deutsch, 1995), page 401
  6. ^ Gore Vidal, Richard Peabody, and Lucinda Ebersole, Conversations with Gore Vidal, (University Press of Mississippi, 2005), page xix
  7. ^ Gore Vidal, Richard Peabody, and Lucinda Ebersole, Conversations with Gore Vidal, (University Press of Mississippi, 2005), page 4
  8. ^ Gore Vidal, Richard Peabody, and Lucinda Ebersole, Conversations with Gore Vidal, (University Press of Mississippi, 2005), page xx
  9. ^ "Aeronatics: $8,073.61", Time, September 28, 1931
  10. ^ "Booknotes". Booknotes. Retrieved December 31, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Eugene L. Vidal, Aviation Leader". The New York Times. February 21, 1969. p. 43. 
  12. ^ South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame Profile: Gene Vidal[dead link].
  13. ^ a b c d e gorevidalnow.com[dead link], in which Gore Vidal corrects his Wikipedia page
  14. ^ "General Robert Olds Marries". The New York Times. June 7, 1942. p. 6. 
  15. ^ "Miss Nina Gore Marries". The New York Times. January 12, 1922. 
  16. ^ Gore Vidal, Point to Point Navigation, New York: Doubleday, 2006, p. 135.
  17. ^ "Politicians: Aubertine to Austern". The Political Graveyard. 2008. Retrieved October 31, 2008. 
  18. ^ "Maj. Gen. Olds, 46, of Air Force, Dies". The New York Times. April 29, 1943. 
  19. ^ "Hugh Steers, 32, Figurative Painter". New York Times. March 4, 1995. 
  20. ^ Durbin, Karen (September 15, 2002). "A Family's Legacy: Pain and Humor (and a Movie)". New York Times. 
  21. ^ Rutten, Tim, "'The Selected Essays of Gore Vidal'", Los Angeles Times, June 18, 2008.
  22. ^ Gore Vidal: a critical companion. Susan Baker, Curtis S. Gibson. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1997. ISBN 0-313-29579-4. Page 3
  23. ^ Hattersley, Roy. "Gore Vidal: Sharpest tongue in the West". Daily Mail (London). 
  24. ^ "Williwa" by Gore Vidal, Preface page 1.
  25. ^ "Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace". Web.archive.org. February 7, 2008. Archived from the original on February 7, 2008. Retrieved November 7, 2011. [dead link]
  26. ^ Vidal, Gore. The City and the Pillar and Seven Early Stories (NY: Random House), xiii
  27. ^ Roberts, James "The Legacy of Jimmy Trimble", ESPN, March 14, 2002.
  28. ^ Chalmers, Robert, "Gore Vidal: Literary feuds, his 'vicious' mother and rumours of a secret love child", The Independent, May 25, 2008.
  29. ^ Gore Vidal, Point to Point Navigation (New York: Doubleday, 2006), 245
  30. ^ Boston Globe: Diane White, "Murder, he wrote, before becoming a man of letters," March 25, 2011[dead link], Retrieved July 11, 2011
  31. ^ Gore Vidal, "Introduction to Death in the Fifth Position", in Edgar Box, Death in the Fifth Position (Vintage, 2011), 5–6
  32. ^ "Philco Television Playhouse: A Sense of Justice (TV)". The Paley Center for Media. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  33. ^ John Leonard (July 7, 1970). "Not Enough Blood, Not Enough Gore". The New York Times. Retrieved October 30, 2008. 
  34. ^ Ned Rorem (December 12, 1999). "Gore Vidal, aloof in art and in life". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 18S. 
  35. ^ Mick LaSalle (October 2, 1995). "A Commanding Presence: Actor Charlton Heston sets his epic career in stone—or at least on paper". The San Francisco Chronicle. p. E1. 
  36. ^ "Show Business: Will the Real Caligula Stand Up?", Time, January 3, 1977.
  37. ^ Solomon, Deborah (June 15, 2008). "Literary Lion". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved June 29, 2008. 
  38. ^ a b "National Book Awards – 1993". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
    (With acceptance speech by Vidal, read by Harry Evans.)
  39. ^ "United States". amazon.com. Retrieved 27 November 2013. 
  40. ^ Décoration de l’écrivain Gore Vidal.
  41. ^ a b Gore Vidal (September 1969). "A Distasteful Encounter with William F. Buckley Jr.". Esquire. p. 140. 
  42. ^ "UTSA presents poet-novelist Jay Parini in Brackenridge lecture series Feb. 1-3". UTSA Today. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  43. ^ "Distinguished Contribution to American Letters". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-11.
    (With acceptance speech by Vidal and official blurb.)
  44. ^ "Collection Online, Francesco Vezzoli. Trailer for the Remake of Gore Vidal's Caligula. 2005". The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Retrieved 2 August 2012. 
  45. ^ StarNewsOnline.com (blog) - On “Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In,” [[Lily Tomlin] as Ernestine the telephone operator would often call “Mr. Veedle”]
  46. ^ Ernestine the Operator - TV Acres www.tvacres.com - Lily Tomlin as Ernestine the Telephone Operator - ...a conversation with writer Gore Vidal as Ernestine says "Mr. Veedle, you owe us ..."
  47. ^ Record album: This Is A Recording, by Lily Tomlin, title: "Mr. Veedle" Rhapsody
  48. ^ Rafael, George (September 20, 2000). "The Golden Age". Salon. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  49. ^ Tapper, Jake (September 20, 2000). "The Other Gore". Salon. Retrieved May 2, 2012. 
  50. ^ "Statistics of the Presidential and Congressional Election of November 8, 1960". Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. 1960. p. 31, item #29. Retrieved August 4, 2012. 
  51. ^ Freeman, Ira Henry (September 15, 1960). "The Playwright, the Lawyer, and the Voters". New York Times. p. 20. 
  52. ^ Veitch, Jonathan (May 24, 1998). "Raging Bull; THE TIME OF OUR TIME. By Norman Mailer". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  53. ^ Cavett, Dick (January 23, 2003). "Cavett: Gore Vidal hates being dead". cnn.com. 
  54. ^ "The Guest From Hell: Savoring Norman Mailer's legendary appearance on The Dick Cavett Show". Slate.com. Retrieved April 13, 2012. 
  55. ^ Video of Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal Feud on the Dick Cavett Show on YouTube
  56. ^ "Gore Vidal". Wtp.org. Retrieved October 20, 2008. 
  57. ^ Vidal, Gore The Best Man/'72, Esquire
  58. ^ Kauffman, Bill (2012-09-14) My Pen Pal Gore Vidal, The American Conservative
  59. ^ "Gore Vidal". The Nation. Retrieved January 22, 2009. 
  60. ^ Ira Henry Freeman, "Gore Vidal Conducts Campaign of Quips and Liberal Views", The New York Times, September 15, 1960
  61. ^ Gore Vidal (1977). Matters of Fact and of Fiction: Essays 1973–1976. Random House. p. 268. ISBN 0-394-41128-5. 
  62. ^ Real Time With Bill Maher, Season 7, Episode 149, April 10, 2009
  63. ^ Gore Vidal, "Sexually Speaking: Collected Sexual Writings", Cleis Press, 1999.
  64. ^ Browne, Anthony (April 30, 2003). "The folly of mass immigration". Opendemocracy.net. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  65. ^ Gore Vidal, "Three Lies to Rule By" and "Japanese Intentions in the Second World War", from Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta, New York, 2002, ISBN 1-56025-502-1
  66. ^ "Why We Fight (9 of 48)". Say2.org (Series of Subtitles for Documentary Video). Retrieved November 7, 2011. [dead link]
  67. ^ Gore Vidal, "The Meaning of Timothy McVeigh". Vanity Fair, September 2001.
  68. ^ "World Can't Wait Advisory Board". Retrieved July 29, 2002. [dead link]
  69. ^ Drozdiak, William (1997-01-14). U.S. Celebrities Defend Scientology in Germany, The Washington Post, p. A11.
  70. ^ Baker, Russ; April 1997. "Clash of the Titans: Scientology vs. Germany", George
  71. ^ "Dennis Kucinich". The Nation. November 8, 2007. Retrieved March 25, 2012. 
  72. ^ "Gore Vidal Accepts Title of American Humanist Association Honorary President". American Humanist Association. April 20, 2009. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  73. ^ Interview The Times September 30, 2009
  74. ^ "Political Animals: Vidal, Buckley and the '68 Conventions". Retrieved November 2, 2009. 
  75. ^ "William Buckley/Gore Vidal Debate". Retrieved August 3, 2012. 
  76. ^ "Feuds: Wasted Talent". Time. August 22, 1969. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  77. ^ Buckley v. Vidal 327 F. Supp. 1051 (1971)
  78. ^ "Buckley Drops Vidal Suit, Settles With Esquire", The New York Times, September 26, 1972, page 40
  79. ^ "Reports — Gore Vidal Speaks Seriously Ill of the Dead". Truthdig. March 20, 2008. Retrieved January 22, 2009. 
  80. ^ Solomon, Deborah. "Literary Lion: Questions for Gore Vidal". New York Times. June 15, 2008.
  81. ^ Osborne, Kevin. "Obama a Disappointment". City Beat. Retrieved June 2, 2010. 
  82. ^ "YouTube — The Henry Rollins Show — The Corruption of Election 2008". Youtube.com. January 12, 2008. Retrieved October 20, 2008. 
  83. ^ "Gore Vidal Interview with Alex Jones Infowars, October 29, 2006 Texas Book Fest". Video.google.com. November 1, 2006. Retrieved January 22, 2009. [dead link]
  84. ^ Close (May 5, 2007). "Vidal salon". The Guardian (London). Retrieved August 17, 2009. 
  85. ^ Joy Do Lico and Andrew Johnson, "The rumours about my love child may be true, says Gore Vidal"[dead link], The Independent, May 25, 2008.
  86. ^ "What I've Learned", Esquire, June, 2008, p. 132.
  87. ^ Robinson, Charlotte. "Outtake Blog Author & Gay Icon Gore Vidal Dies". Outtake Blog. Retrieved August 1, 2012. 
  88. ^ Wieder, Judy (2001). Wieder, Judy, ed. Celebrity: The Advocate Interviews. New York, NY: Advocate Books. p. 127. ISBN 1-55583-722-0. 
  89. ^ Bloom, Harold (1994). The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages. Riverhead Books. p. 20. ISBN 9781573225144. Retrieved August 1, 2012. 
  90. ^ "Gore Vidal: The Death of a Legend | American Atheists". Atheists.org. August 1, 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-05. 
  91. ^ Duke, Barry (2012-08-01). "Farewell Gore Vidal, gay atheist extraordinary". Freethinker.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-08-05. 
  92. ^ described on page 44 of Time International of September 28 1992 as "a massive villa - in every detail of location and layout designed to enhance concentration"
  93. ^ "Gore Vidal, celebrated author, playwright, dies" by Tina Fineberg, USA Today, August 1, 2012
  94. ^ Hillel Italie and Andrew Dalton, "Gore Vidal, celebrated author, playwright, dies", Associated Press, August 1, 2012.
  95. ^ Krizan, Kim (September 27, 2013). "Gore Vidal's Secret, Unpublished Love Letter To Anaïs Nin". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2013-09-20. 
  96. ^ Charles McGrath (August 1, 2012). "Prolific, Elegant, Acerbic Writer". The New York Times. Retrieved August 1, 2012. 
  97. ^ Elaine Woo (August 1, 2012). "Gore Vidal, iconoclastic author, dies at 86". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 1, 2012. 
  98. ^ Michael Dirda (August 1, 2012). "Gore Vidal dies; imperious gadfly and prolific, graceful writer was 86". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 1, 2012. 
  99. ^ Jay Parini (August 1, 2012). "Gore Vidal obituary". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2012-08-05. 
  100. ^ "Gore Vidal". London: Telegraph.co.uk. 2012-08-01. Retrieved 2012-08-05. 
  101. ^ Alastair Leithead (2012-08-01). "Obituary: Gore Vidal". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-08-05. 
  102. ^ "La cultura de Estados Unidos lamenta la muerte de Gore Vidal". Ideal.es. Retrieved August 2, 2012. 
  103. ^ Redazione online. "Los Angeles, è morto lo scrittore Gore Vidal". Corriere.it. Retrieved August 2, 2012. 
  104. ^ "Gore Vidal : le trouble-fête de l'Amérique" [Gore Vidal: the killjoy of America] (in French). Lefigaro.fr. 01/08/2012. Retrieved August 2, 2012. 
  105. ^ McGrath, Charles (August 23, 2012). "Vidal’s Own Wit to Celebrate Him". New York TImes. Retrieved June 10, 2013. 
  106. ^ Bryant, Christopher (August 15, 2009). "The Celluloid Closet". Polari Magazine. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  107. ^ "Jon Wiener (biography)". The Nation. May 21, 2012. Retrieved May 21, 2012. 
  108. ^ "Legendary Author Gore Vidal on the Bush Presidency, History and the "United States of Amnesia"". Democracy Now!. May 14, 2008. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  109. ^ "'The US is not a republic anymore'". Insight-info.com. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  110. ^ "Zero: an investigation into 9/11". Zero 9/11 Movie. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  111. ^ "Gore Vidal vs David Dimbleby on Election Night". BBC. November 4, 2008. Retrieved August 4, 2012. 
  112. ^ Haskell, Arlo (July 3, 2009). "Audio Archives: Gore Vidal | Writer Against the Grain". Key West Literary Seminar. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  113. ^ "Gore Vidal's America". The Real News. December 24, 2010. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 

External links[edit]