August 24, 2012

Remembering Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal was impossible to categorize, which was exactly the way he liked it.

The reading public knew him as a literary juggernaut who wrote 25 novels —from the historical “Lincoln” to the satirical “Myra Breckinridge” — and volumes of essays critics consider among the most elegant in the English language. He also brought shrewd intelligence to writing Broadway hits, Hollywood screenplays, television dramas and a trio of mysteries still in print after 50 years.

When he wasn’t writing, he was popping up in movies, playing himself in “Fellini’s Roma,” a sinister plotter in sci-fi thriller “Gattaca” and a U.S. senator in “Bob Roberts.” The grandson of a U.S. senator, he also made two entertaining but unsuccessful forays into politics, running for the Senate from California and the House of Representatives from New York.

In other spare moments, he demolished intellectual rivals like Norman Mailer and William F. Buckley Jr. with acidic one-liners, establishing himself as a peerless master of talk-show punditry.

“Style,” Vidal once said, “is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” By that definition, he was an emperor of style, sophisticated and cantankerous in his prophesies of America’s fate and refusal to let others define him.

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