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Celebrated author, playwright, commentator, essayist, and politician Gore Vidal died at age 86 on Tuesday in his home in Los Angeles. Vidal, known for his expansive range of public works and public commentaries marked by his unabashed wit and unconventional wisdom, died at his home in the Hollywood Hills at about 6:45 p.m. of complications from pneumonia.
According to his nephew Burr Steers, Vidal had been sick for “quite a while” and had been living alone in the home.
Vidal’s personality and literary style are both best remembered and categorized by author Dave Eggers as unique for “His intellect, his activism, his ability and willingness to always speak up and hold his government accountable.”
Presented as the “modern day Oscar Wilde” by American author Christopher Hitchens, Vidal is considered one among the last generation of literary writers who were also genuine celebrities. He was a regular on talk shows and in gossip columns, often seen lunching with the Kennedy’s, driving around with rock icon Mick Jagger, or dining with Orson Welles in Los Angeles.
He was widely admired as an independent thinker, picking apart politics, mocking religion and prudery, and openly opposing wars. His third novel, The City and the Pillar, outraged conservative critics as one of the first major American novels to feature unambiguous homosexuality.
His other works included hundreds of essays and novels, such as Lincoln and Myra Breckenridge, as well as plays, like the Tony-nominated melodrama The Best Man recently revived on Broadway in 2012, and film scrips, such as Ben-Hur.
Apart from his writing career, Vidal also ran for political office twice and was a longtime political critic.
Vidal chose a cemetery plot in Washington, D.C. next to one of his literary heroes, Henry Adams. Vidal, an all-around American man of letters, will be greatly missed.