Gore Vidal, dead at 86

(via L.A. Times)

Gore Vidal, the iconoclastic writer, savvy analyst and imperious gadfly on the national conscience, has died. He was 86.

Vidal died Tuesday at his home in the Hollywood Hills of complications of pneumonia, said nephew Burr Steers.

Vidal was a literary juggernaut who wrote 25 novels, including historical works such as “Lincoln” and “Burr” and satires such as “Myra Breckinridge” and “Duluth.” He was also a prolific essayist whose pieces on politics, sexuality, religion and literature — once described as “elegantly sustained demolition derbies” — both delighted and inflamed and in 1993 earned him a National Book Award for his massive “United States Essays, 1952-1992.”

Threaded throughout his pieces are anecdotes about his famous friends and foes, who included Anais Nin, Tennessee Williams, Christopher Isherwood, Orson Welles, Truman Capote, Frank Sinatra, Jack Kerouac, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Eleanor Roosevelt and a variety of Kennedys. He counted Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Al Gore among his relatives.

He also wrote Broadway hits, screenplays, television dramas and a trio of mysteries under a pseudonym that remain in print after 50 years.

When he wasn’t writing, he was popping up in movies, playing himself in “Fellini’s Roma,” a sinister plotter in sci-fi thriller “Gattaca” and a U.S. senator in “Bob Roberts.” In other spare moments, he made two entertaining but unsuccessful forays into politics, running for the Senate from California and Congress in New York, and established himself as a master of talk-show punditry who demolished intellectual rivals like Norman Mailer and William F. Buckley with acidic one-liners.

“Style,” Vidal once said, “is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” By that definition, he was an emperor of style, sophisticated and cantankerous in his prophesies of America’s fate and refusal to let others define him.

A full obituary is coming soon.

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