TRIBUTES have been paid from across the globe to Gore Vidal, one of the giants of American literature in the 20th century, who has died at the age of 86.
• Gore Vidal recognised as one of 20th century’s finest essayists
• Novelist was one of the last celebrity writers
The celebrated novelist, acerbic political commentator and Hollywood scriptwriter, died of complications from pneumonia at his home in the Hollywood Hills overlooking Los Angeles.
Vidal was the last surviving member of a band of literary heavyweights including Norman Mailer, William Buckley and Truman Capote who became global celebrities, as famous for their lifestyles as their novels.
During the 1960s and 70s, the noted raconteur was a sought-after talk show guest on both sides of the Atlantic and a prime target for gossip columnists.
No stranger to controversy, Vidal befriended the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, and was headbutted by Mailer after comparing him to mass murderer Charles Manson. He lambasted Nancy Reagan, wife of president Ronald Reagan, for being “born with a silver ladder in her hand.”
One of his early books, The City and the Pillar, published in 1948, was one of the first American novels to deal openly with homosexuality.
But he was perhaps best known as the writer of the satirical novel Myra Breckenridge, about a transsexual cinema star, later made into a movie with Raquel Welch in the tile role.
Sidney Blumenthal, a former aide to president Bill Clinton, hailed Vidal as “one of the several dominant literary figures of mid-century America”.
“What he had in his veins was a sense of high politics and an understanding – in a way that no other literary figure of his generation did – of Washington,” he said. “It was unique.”
Jonathan Miller, the theatre and opera director who moved in the same celebrity circles as Vidal in New York in the 1960s, described Vidal as “fun to be with” and “an old-fashioned American patrician”.
“This was very apparent from the way in which he spoke and was very apparent from the way in which he separated himself from some of the idiocies of America in the last 20 or 30 years,” he said.
Sir David Frost, who interviewed Vidal, described the writer as “a great literary figure”. He added: “He was also an outstanding subject for interviews.”
Paying tribute, actress Joan Collins said: “So sad my friend the brilliant Gore Vidal has died – he was a total original and genius.”
Jake Shears, of the band the Scissor Sisters, tweeted: “RIP Gore Vidal. A truly great American original. What a legacy.”
Singer Courtney Love said: “Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say and not giving a damn. You will be missed, rest in peace Gore.”
Vidal had appeared destined for stellar literary career after his first novel, Williwaw, became a bestseller, but the publication of his second book, The City and the Pillar, led him to be ostracised by the literary establishment and he was forced to survive for years by writing under pseudonyms.
He famously declined membership into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, joking that he already belonged to the Diners Club.
Vidal said in a recent interview that he wished to be cremated and then have his ashes placed at Rockcreek Cemetery in Washington, where the remains of Howard Austen, his partner of four decades, rest.
In a rare foray into Scottish politics in 1998, he said he believed a Scottish parliament could only lead to Scottish independence.
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