A look back at Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal said he was a once-famous novelist who was relegated to going on TV because people "seldom read anymore."
August 1st, 2012
02:13 AM ET

A look back at Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal, an eclectic author who chronicled major cultural shifts in the United States in books, essays and plays, has died at his Los Angeles home. He was 86. Here's a quick look back on his life:

* Birth date: October 3, 1925

* Birth place: West Point, New York

* Birth name: Eugene Luther Vidal, Jr.

* Parents: Eugene,aviator and educator, and Nina (Gore) Vidal

* Education: Phillips Exeter Academy, New Hampshire, 1943

* Military service: U.S. Army, July 1943 – February 1946, Warrant Officer

Other Facts:

* Grandfather T. P. Gore helped write the state constitution of Oklahoma and was one of the first senators elected to represent the state.

* Began writing under the name Gore Vidal in high school, taking Gore after his maternal grandfather.

* At different times, both Vidal and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis were the stepchildren of Hugh Auchincloss. He was married to Nina Gore Vidal first, then to Janet Bouvier, Jackie O's mother.

* Ran for Congress twice and lost.

Career Highlights:

* 1946 – Publishes his first novel, Williwaw, written at age 19 while serving in the U.S. Army.

* 1948 – His third novel, The City and the Pillar, is one of the first American novels to feature open homosexual themes.

* 1952 – 1954 – Writes three murder mysteries under the pen name of Edgar Box.

* 1950s – Works as a screenwriter in Hollywood.

* 1960 – Runs unsuccessfully for a U.S. House seat representing New York's 29th District.

* 1970s – Founds the U.S. Peace Party with Dr. Benjamin Spock.

* 1982 – Loses the race for U.S. Senate in California.

* 1986 – Emmy nomination Outstanding Writing in a Miniseries or a Special for Dress Gray

* 1993 – Wins the National Book Award for United States: Essays, 1952-1992.

* 1995 – Publishes his memoir, Palimpsest. A palimpsest is "a manuscript, usually on papyrus or parchment, which has been written on more than once, with the previous writing incompletely erased." (American Heritage Dictionary)

* 2001 – After the September 11th attacks, Vidal writes an essay for Vanity Fair, reflecting on the tragedy. However, the magazine declines to publish it.

* 2002 – His book, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated takes the position that the Oklahoma City bombing and the September 11 terrorist attacks were provoked by "our government's reckless assaults upon other societies."

* July 2004 – Joins the Board of Advisors of the Modern Institute of Letters.

* November 9, 2005 – Wins the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award.

Publications (selected):

Williwaw, 1946

In a Yellow Wood, 1947

The City and the Pillar, 1948

The Season of Comfort, 1949

Death in the Fifth Position, 1952 as Edgar Box

Death Before Bedtime, 1953 as Edgar Box

Death Likes It Hot, 1954 as Edgar Box

Messiah, 1954

A Thirsty Evil, 1956,

Julian, 1964

Washington DC, 1967

Pink Triangle and Yellow Star and Other Essays, 1982

Duluth, 1983

Empire, 1987

Hollywood, 1990

A View from the Diner's Club, 1991

United States: Essays, 1952-1992, 1993

Palimpsest: A Memoir, 1996

Sexually Speaking: Collected Sex Writings, 1999

The Golden Age, 2000

Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated, 2002,

Creation: A Novel, 2002

Dreaming War, 2002

Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of America, 2005

Point to Point Navigation: A Memoir, 1964 -2006, 2006

The Selected Essays of Gore Vidal, 2008

Gore Vidal: Snapshots in History's Glare, 2009

Filmography (selected):

Writer (books/plays to films)

The Left-handed Gun, 1958

Visit to a Small Planet, 1960

The Best Man, 1964

Myra Breckenridge, 1970

Lincoln, 1984 (TV)

Screenwriter/Writer (selected)

Various TV programs

The Catered Affair, 1956

I Accuse!, 1958

Ben-Hur, 1959 (uncredited)

Suddenly Last Summer, 1959

Caligula, 1979

Dress Gray, 1986

Billy the Kid, 1989

Actor (selected)

Ritual in Transfigured Time, 1946

Suddenly Last Summer, 1959

The Best Man, 1964

Bob Roberts, 1992

With Honors, 1994

Gattaca, 1997

Igby Goes Down, 2002

Shrink, 2009

Stage Productions:


Visit to a Small Planet, 1957

The Best Man, 1960

A March to the Sea: A Southron Tragedy, 1962

Romulus: A New Comedy, 1962

Weekend, 1968

An Evening with Richard Nixon, 1972

Sources: Biography Resource Center, PBS, IMDB.com, IBDB.com

Post by:
Filed under: Literature • Uncategorized
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. BradKT

    I never understood why this guy was proclaimed by the talking heads to be so great. He was pompous enough, but what else was he? Did ordinary people ever read much of what he wrote? Did we ever care what his opinions were?

    Maybe it's me, but I just don't get it about Gore Vidal. He chose an impressive sounding name, but that's about it.

    Where's the beef?

    August 1, 2012 at 3:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Harleytheartist

      My response to the individual's comments on why he doesn't understand why this man was so great. Sir, try picking up one of Vidal's books and read it and you might have the chance to develop a great mind.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      It's just you. Obviously, you are not a reader.

      August 1, 2012 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Pen NM

      Read his book "Lincoln" and you'll see.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. truthman

    I've heard of Myra Breckinridge, and Ben Hur, of course, but other than that, nope, nada. But he was a human being, and while that might not be much celebrated these days, I wish his soul a good journey and peace for just that, being a human being. I hope he was a good person to those around him while he was alive, 'cause I assume purgatory can be hell, at times.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:47 am | Report abuse |
  3. Harrrumph

    Why don't you mention the full name of his book?

    Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta

    Afraid to publish that CNN?

    August 1, 2012 at 4:08 am | Report abuse |
  4. Charles

    "Not to know what happened before one was born is always to be a child."
    — Marcus Tullius Cicero, De Oratore, II, c. 80 B. C.

    Gore Vidal was our American Cicero. He valiantly stood as our golden shield of republican virtue against the brassy sword of empire yielded by plutocratic militarists and their vulgar plebeians. He was the national conscience, unrelenting in reminding the citizenry of its lost historical memory in this "United States of Amnesia." Something great has gone out of the world with his passing.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |