Gore Vidal

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Vidal, Gore

(Eugene Luther Gore Vidal, Jr.), 1925–2012, American writer, b. West Point, N.Y. He grew up in Washington, D.C., where a formative influence was his witty and scholarly grandfather, Senator Thomas Gore of Oklahoma. Vidal was an acerbic observer of the contemporary American scene and an acute commentator on the nation's history. His first novel, Williwaw (1946), was based on his experiences in World War II. The City and the Pillar (1948, rev. ed. 1965) was one of the first mainstream novels to deal frankly with homosexuality. His best-known novel, the best-selling Myra Breckenridge (1968), is a witty satire about the Hollywood adventures of a glamorous transsexual.

Vidal's historical fiction includes an interlocking septet of American novels—consisting of Washington, D.C. (1967), Burr (1973), 1876 (1976), Lincoln (1984), Empire (1987), Hollywood (1990), and The Golden Age (2000)—as well as Julian (1964), Creation (1982), Live from Golgotha (1992), and The Smithsonian Institution (1998). In all, he wrote some 25 novels. Among his plays are Visit to a Small Planet (1955) and The Best Man (1960, film 1974), a drama concerning a presidential election that mirrored his political interests—he ran unsuccessfully for the House (1960) and the Senate (1982). He also wrote screenplays and television dramas. Vidal's sharply argued, stylish, and often controversial essays, which some critics consider his finest works, are collected in several volumes, including Reflections on a Sinking Ship (1969), The Second American Revolution (1982), Armageddon (1987), Screening History (1992), United States: Essays 1952–1992 (1993), and The Last Empire: Essays 1992–2000 (2001). He also wrote murder mysteries under the name Edgar Box.

Bibliography

See R. J. Stanton and G. Vidal, ed., Views from a Window: Conversations with Gore Vidal (1980) and R. Peabody and L. Ebersole, ed., Conversations with Gore Vidal (2005); his memoirs, Palimpsest (1995) and Point to Point Navigation (2006); biographies by F. Kaplan (1999) and J. Parini (2015); studies by B. F. Dick (1974), R. F. Kiernan (1982), J. Parini, ed. (1992), S. Baker and C. S. Gibson (1997), and S. Harris (2005); N. Wrathall, dir., Gore Vidal: United States of Amnesia (documentary, 2014).

Vidal, (Eugene Luther) Gore (Edgar Box, pen name)

(1925–  ) writer; born in West Point, N.Y. He studied at Exeter Academy, and served in the Army during World War II. His novel, The City and the Pillar (1948), was one of the first serious works by an American to deal explicitly with homosexuals. He wrote a number of successful novels, plays, short stories, books of literary criticism, essays, and, using the pen name of Edgar Box, mystery novels. He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives (1960), and the U.S. Senate (1982); he drew on the former experience for his play, The Best Man (1960). Said to have originated the idea of the Peace Corps, he was an often vitriolic commentator on the American political and social scene. Such fictional works as Myra Breckenridge (1968) display his capacity for irreverent wit, while in a semifictional work such as Lincoln (1984), and in his prolific output of reviews and essays, he displayed the vast range of his knowledge alongside his generally disaffected attitudes toward American society.