Gore Vidal—sharp-tongued author, caustic political commentator, and gay-rights champion—died in his Hollywood Hills home yesterday of complications from pneumonia. He was 86.
The only child of an Army pilot father and a socialite mother, Vidal first enraged the literary community at the age of 21, when he presented homosexuality in a sympathetic light in his 1948 sophomore novel, The City and the Pillar.
Throughout his life and work, Vidal remained brutally honest and fearlessly outspoken, defending the unpopular and relishing in feuds (William F. Buckley Jr., Truman Capote, and Norman Mailer, who he compared to Charles Manson).
Despite his acerbic wit, Vidal’s prose is often described as elegant and learned. In addition to novels, essays, and presidential biographies, he wrote numerous films (Ben Hur) and plays, two of which became Broadway productions.
Ever the controversialist, Vidal could always be relied upon for a good quip. About Ronald Reagan, he once said, “He is not clear about the difference between Medici and Gucci. He knows Nancy wears one of them.”