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The iconic author Gore Vidal, who was best known for his ground-breaking novels (The City and the Pillar, Myra Breckinridge) and acerbic political essays, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles, California. He was 86.
The cause was complications of pneumonia, according to his nephew Burr Steers. Considered one of the titans of 20th century letters, Vidal, always the gadfly, used his writing to challenge America’s “puritanical” sexual and cultural mores and “imperialist foreign policies.”
Mr. Vidal was, at the end of his life, 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. He published some 25 novels, two memoirs and several volumes of stylish, magisterial essays. He also wrote plays, television dramas and screenplays. For a while he was even a contract writer at MGM. And he could always be counted on for a spur-of-the-moment aphorism, putdown or sharply worded critique of American foreign policy.
Perhaps more than any other American writer except Norman Mailer or Truman Capote, Mr. Vidal took great pleasure in being a public figure. He twice ran for office — in 1960, when he was the Democratic Congressional candidate for the 29th District in upstate New York, and in 1982, when he campaigned in California for a seat in the Senate — and though he lost both times, he often conducted himself as a sort of unelected shadow president. He once said, “There is not one human problem that could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.”
A full obituary will follow on LambdaLiterary.org shortly.