Gore Vidal was an American author who was best known for his political commentary and television appearances. Born in 1925, Vidal rarely had any kind words for his nation, often referring to the United States as a decadent empire ruled by a militaristic dictatorship.
Vidal died in 2012 at the age of 86.
Gore Vidal was born to Eugene Luther Vidal and Nina Gore at West Point in New York. He attended St. Albans Preparatory School. At birth, Gore was christened Eugene Louis Vidal.
It wasn’t until he was baptized at the age of 13 at Albans that he got the name ‘Gore’. That was in 1939. Two years later the author became Gore Vidal, choosing to discard his other names because he believed an author needed something sharp and succinct for a name if people were to remember him.
Vidal’s father was a military man, a lieutenant at a Military Academy in the United States. He worked in the aeronautics department. Vidal’s mother, who divorced his father in 1935, was an actress who had the fortune of appearing on Broadway.
Nina Gore was married again on two separate occasions, with the marriages giving Gore Vidal a few half-siblings. The author started reading at a young age. This was partly because of his grandfather Thomas Pryor Gore who went blind at one point and required young Vidal to read aloud to him.
Vidal’s love for Italy and, in particular, Rome was well documented. The author got to traverse Europe as a young man and Rome had such an impact on him that it featured heavily in a number of his literary creations.
The author regrets not staying in Europe longer. WW II forced him to return to the United States. Vidal got his chance to serve his country when he was 17. He enrolled in the army, became the first mate on a ship and, as he traversed the area between San Francisco Bay and the Aleutian Islands, wrote ‘Williwaw’, his first novel.
Gore Vidal loved to write about America’s public and private life. He was an intellectual who enjoyed matching his wits against the likes of Norman Mailer and William Buckley in debates about religion, sex, and politics.
And Vidal had no qualms about fighting fire with fire. He threw as much offense and vitriol at his opponents as he received. He took every opportunity afforded him to attack the views of his conservative readers and book reviewers.
Gore Vidal’s first fictional undertaking was a military novel titled ‘Williwaw’. Vidal’s second novel (The City and the Pillar) put him on the map. The book not only featured a homosexual lead but it delved into the nature of homosexual relationships.
The book elicited a powerful moralistic furor and while it definitely elevated the visibility of Gore Vidal’s name, he also saw his works ostracized from certain literary circles. The majority of critics railed against the central message of his books.
But that did little to affect the success of Vidal whose literary career skyrocketed. By the time he died, the author had over two hundred essays to his name, this not including the two dozen novels in his bibliography.
Vidal always held strong progressive views. He attempted to run for office on the Democratic Party ticket twice but he lost. So he turned his efforts towards pushing the Democratic Party agenda in his essays.
The author eventually passed away from complications resulting from pneumonia. But by the time he died, Gore Vidal was known more for his outspoken political, social, and cultural opinions than the books and essays he wrote.
The author had a tendency to make statements and suggestions so inflammatory that even Newspapers and magazines that supported the Democratic Party wouldn’t print his words.
That did not stop him from finding ways of getting his messages heard.
Gore Vidal has produced numerous works about the history of the United States. He has gone to great lengths to explore eras ranging from the Revolution to the Second World War.
In Burr, Vidal takes a look at one of the country’s more complicated Founding Fathers. Being Vice President was the least significant of Aaron Burr’s achievements. Not only did he kill his political nemesis (Alexander Hamilton) in a duel but he was accused of treason at one point in time.
Despite eliciting a reputation as a monster, the respect Vidal commanded never waned, and neither did his influence on the political landscape.
Burr is the first book in the Narratives of Empire series. The book throws the spotlight on Aaron Burr, a figure that set the political arena of his time on fire. Despite the chaos he was prone to generating, Burr came pretty close to becoming president of the United States.
Gore Vidal uses his wicked sense of humor and charming literary style to present the different dimensions of Aaron Burr. Vidal tells Burr’s story using Charles Schuyler, a young author who Burr takes a liking to and permits to write his biography.
Charles is hired to listen to Burr’s narrative and arrange it appropriately, producing a literary work that does not necessarily tell the truth but, rather, gives an account of Burr’s life as he perceived it. The book finds Burr in his 70s. Despite all the scandals he has weathered, Burr isn’t afraid to lay it all bear because for all the respect he still enjoys in some circles, the political powerhouse is obsessed with not being forgotten.
Lincoln is one of America’s greatest presidents. In the pages of this book, Gore Vidal attempts to shade light on the different aspects of this monolithic figure. The Abraham Lincoln Vidal writes about was not steadfast in his opposition to slavery.
This Lincoln faced many an internal struggle over the decision to fight the machine that bought and sold people like they were cattle. And he only took those first steps to becoming the great emancipator when every other avenue had been exhausted and ultimately proven ineffective.
At that point, Lincoln plunged headfirst into the turmoil of war even as personal tragedy left him shaken.
Lincoln is the second novel in the Narratives of Empire series. The book shows the extensive research Gore Vidal did about the person of Lincoln and the many people that he engaged with.
Books in order of publication by series:
Peter Sargeant Series (as by Edgar Box) Books
|Death in the Fifth Position||(1952)|
|Death Before Bedtime||(1953)|
|Death Likes it Hot||(1955)|
Narratives of Empire Books
|The Golden Age||(2000)|
|Williwaw aka Dangerous Voyage||(1946)|
|In a Yellow Wood||(1947)|
|The City and the Pillar||(1948)|
|The Season of Comfort||(1949)|
|Dark Green, Bright Red||(1950)|
|A Search for the King||(1950)|
|A Star’s Progress||(1950)|
|The Judgment of Paris||(1953)|
|Visit to a Small Planet||(1957)|
|Live from Golgotha||(1992)|
|The Smithsonian Institution||(1995)|
|The Best Man||(1962)|
|An Evening with Richard Nixon||(1972)|
|Rocking the Boat||(1962)|
|Sex, Death and Money||(1968)|
|Reflections Upon a Sinking Ship||(1969)|
|Homage to Daniel Shays||(1973)|
|Matters of Fact and of Fiction||(1977)|
|Views from a Window||(1980)|
|The Decline and Fall of the American Empire||(1981)|
|The Second American Revolution||(1982)|
|Vidal in Venice||(1985)|
|Paths of Resistance||(1989)|
|A View from the Diners Club||(1991)|
|United States: Essays 1952-1992||(1993)|
|The Last Empire||(2001)|
|Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace||(2002)|
|Inventing a Nation||(2003)|
|Point to Point Navigation||(2006)|
|The Selected Essays of Gore Vidal||(2008)|
|Snapshots in History’s Glare||(2009)|
|I Told You So||(2013)|
|Vidal vs. Mailer||(2014)|
|Buckley vs. Vidal||(2015)|
|A Thirsty Evil||(1956)|
|The Collected Mysteries of Edgar Box||(1978)|
|The Essential Gore Vidal||(1998)|
|Clouds and Eclipses||(2006)|