Gore Vidal – author, playwright, essayist, screenwriter, and political activist – wrote one of the first popular American novels to feature gay male characters and was an early champion of sexual liberation. Today we discover he has died, aged 86.
His nephew confirms he passed away following complications from pneumonia at his home in Hollywood Hills yesterday.
Vidal leaves behind a long legacy of ground-breaking books, essays, screenplays and TV dramas. Like a modern-day Oscar Wilde, he was renowned as a wit and at one point even earned the title ‘America’s most controversial writer.’
His opinion on sexuality developed over time, with his well-documented experiences with both men and women through his life. “We are all bisexual to begin with,” he explained in a 1969 essay for Esquire magazine. “That is a fact of our condition. And we are all responsive to sexual stimuli from our own as well as from the opposite sex.
“Certain societies at certain times, usually in the interest of maintaining the baby supply, have discouraged homosexuality. Other societies, particularly militaristic ones, have exalted it. But regardless of tribal taboos, homosexuality is a constant fact of the human condition and it is not a sickness, not a sin, not a crime… despite the best efforts of our puritan tribe to make it all three. Homosexuality is as natural as heterosexuality. Notice I use the word ‘natural,’ not normal.”
He shared his home with his male companion, Howard Austin, for many years. Austin died in 2003 and was buried in a plot in Washington DC which Vidal will also now rest in.
Vidal recently recalled Austin’s words to him on his death bed. “Didn’t it all go by awfully fast?”
Wikipedia has a fantastic page full of Gore Vidal’s witty and insightful quotes here, but read with caution – one recent entry notes the great writer as saying “Everything’s wrong on Wikipedia.”