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Pundit, gadfly and author Gore Vidal dies at 86

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 1st, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

He shocked, he provoked, he entertained and made enemies - but no one dare NOT to read his writings. Celebrated American author Gore Vidal has passed away at his Los Angeles, home. He was 86.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to his nephew, Vidal passed away from complications due to pneumonia. Vidal had suffered from heart ailments.

Born into a rich and powerful family, he joined the Navy at age 17. His debut novel in 1948, "The City and the Pillar" created a sensation with its frank depiction of homosexuality. 

Vidal wrote some 25 novels, two successful Broadway plays, numerous screenplays, more than 200 essays and the memoir "Palimpsest." His "United States: Essays, 1952-1992" won the National Book Award in 1993.

Vidal ran for office in upstate New York in 1960, calling for the recognition of Communist China. He ran for the Senate in California in 1982.

Vidal actively courted controversy throughout his life and was known for his vitriolic one-liners. Unconcerned with public opinion, his laid the blame for the 9/11 terrorist attacks due to the Bush administration's "incompetence."

Befriending convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, Vidal said he understood "why he did what he did." His subsequent book, "Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated" takes the position that both attacks were provoked by "our government's reckless assaults upon other societies."

Vidal was a frequent television talk show guest, always game to go against other guests who had different opinions. Vidal would go one to become the mortal enemy of his fellow authors, such as Norman Mailer who he once compared to the infamous killer Charles Manson, to which in response, man-of-action Mailer head-buttted Vidal before a telecast. 

Author Truman Capote once said he felt sorry for Gore, "very sad that he has to breathe every day."

Conservative author and journalist, William F. Buckley Jr. famously denounced Vidal as "queer." Vidal had called him a "crypto-Nazi" first.

"Well, I mean I won the debates, there was no question of that," Vidal recounted in a CNN interview in 2007. "They took polls, it was ABC Television... And because I'm a writer, people think that I'm this poor little fragile thing. I'm not poor and fragile. ... And anybody who insults me is going to get it right back."

Vidal justified his many TV appearances - he once appeared on the cartoon TV show "The Simpsons" as himself -- because people "seldom read anymore."

"All these literary prizes should go to the readers: 'Nobel Prize for the best reader in Milwaukee,'" he said. "And you know, we must honor them because they are so few."

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