Gore Vidal remembered: a larger-than-life literary presence (+video)
Gore Vidal, who died yesterday at the age of 86, was a legendary writer and contrarian commentator.
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Of course, in life Vidal recognized no limits and the next decades saw the formidable writer enter the political ring. He ran for office as a Democrat in upstate New York in 1960 – under the slogan “You’ll get more with Gore” – and narrowly lost the staunchly Republican district (calling for recognition of Communist China may have had something to do with his loss). In 1982, Vidal made a bid for the Senate seat in California. That, too, he lost.Skip to next paragraph
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In between, Vidal lived in self-imposed exile in Ravello, Italy, for more than 30 years with his partner Howard Austen, whose 2003 death Vidal wrote about in his second memoir, “Point to Point Navigation.”
Vidal, who claimed to have slept with thousands of men and was in a relationship with Austen for five decades, always rejected attempts to categorize himself – or for that matter, anyone else – by sexual orientation. “There are no homosexual people, only homosexual acts,” he is said to have responded to questions.
Vidal, who once said he had “met everyone, but knew no one,” was “among the last generation of literary writers who were also genuine celebrities,” according to NBC News. Among his friends were Tennessee Williams, Orson Welles, Truman Capote, Frank Sinatra, Jack Kerouac, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Eleanor Woodward, and a collection of Kennedys, many of whom are found in anecdotes woven throughout his works. Vidal counted former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and former US Vice President Al Gore among his relatives.
Throughout life, Vidal was known as an outspoken commentator whose quick wit, acerbic tongue, and overall fearlessness garnered him a large audience.
He riled the country when he said “Americans who died on 9/11 were as much victims of US foreign policy as victims of terrorism,” as USA Today reported. He also took as a personal affront George W. Bush’s “stolen election” from Al Gore in 2000 and called the Bush administration “incompetent.”
“I've had hard targets in my lifetime, I've taken on general superstitions, but that's what writers do,” Vidal once said of his controversial comments. “So I certainly wouldn't have changed my modus vivendi one bit.”
Vidal won the National Book Award in 1993 for his collection of essays “United States.”
Vidal said he hoped to be remembered as “the person who wrote the best sentences of his time.”
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.