Gore Vidal, 1925-2012

Gore VidalEugene Luther Gore Vidal, an impressive essayist, critic, playwright, political activist, novelist, screenwriter and general raconteur raised in the Washington, D.C. area, passed away July 31, 2012.

Vidal's genius was apparent when, at 25 years of age, he wrote the satiric novel The Judgement of Paris, a critically acclaimed retelling of the Greek myth. His penchant for highlighting traditionally forbidden subject matter put off some critics, but delighted others who saw in Vidal an intellectual who dared to challenge the status quo.

In his book Julian: A Novel (1964), Vidal creates a vital fourth-century Rome through the use of first-person narratives. His book Washington, D.C.: A Novel (1967) is a witty account of the Washington political power game.

It was his novel Myra Breckinridge (1968), where he created a masterpiece with use of colorful comic characters and an ear for absurd dialogue. Some critics believed that this was the novel that defined his voice as a novelist.

Vidal wrote other satirical novels such as Myron: A Novel (1974), Kalki: A Novel (1978), Duluth (1983), Live from Golgotha (1992), and The Smithsonian Institution: A Novel (1998).

Vidal's awareness of politics was demonstrated in his fictional political works Burr (1973), 1876: A Novel (1976), Lincoln: A Novel (1984), Empire: A Novel (1987), Hollywood: A Novel of America in the 1920s (1990).

But to many, Vidal's greatest genius was demonstrated in his essays. He won the National Book Award for the collection, United States: Essays: 1952-1992 (1993). Here the writer employs his critical mind, his sense of irony and his knowledge of history -- always with a dose of humor. 

Vidal will be remembered for daring to feature same-sex relations, along with gender issues in general with characteristic probity and wit.

- P. McKinlay