A voice for the LGBT community before there was such a thing, author, playwright, polemicist and would-be politician Gore Vidal died of complication from pneumonia in his Hollywood Hills home Tuesday night. He was 86.
For more than six decades, Vidal released a staggering output of words—in books, essays, plays and notorious public statements. His first tome was published when Vidal was just 19, but made his reputation on later historical novels like Burr, Hollywood, Lincoln, 1876 and The Golden Age.
He also wrote for the stage: A revival of his 1960 play, The Best Man, is currently running on Broadway with an all-star cast that includes Angela Lansbury, Candice Bergen and James Earl Jones.
Vidal brought the subject of homosexuality to the forefront even when America wasn’t ready to deal with it: When E.P. Dutton published The City and the Pillar, Vidal’s 1948 novel about the coming of age of a young gay man, many outlets refused to review or advertise it, and Vidal was blacklisted for years after.
Of course, Vidal’s potent personality always threatened to overshadow his artistic output:
Mr. Vidal was arguably best known to the public for his many public spats with fellow writers. Over the years, he openly feuded (and seemed to relish it) with the likes of Norman Mailer, Truman Capote and William F. Buckley Jr.
Part of this tendency may have been fueled by envy. “Every time a friend succeeds,” he once said, “I die a little.”
Rest in peace, Mr. Vidal.