His essays from four decades of writing are collected in a massive book titled United States, which I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend - it is huge, but you can browse. He's delightfully readable, and he has known so many people - the Kennedys, Norman Mailer, Tennessee Williams, Italo Calvino, Al Gore, Christopher Hitchens, ....
As Paglia says, what an original mind. Kind of determinedly outrageous and transgressive, but also smart, bold, and often correct. I still think about his notions that authoritarians always keep shit lists, monotheism inherently provokes religious conflict, and there is no clear classification of sexual preference for individuals. It it all true? He will convince you.
And also a rabid anti-imperialist and fond of comparing the United States to ancient Rome. One of the most outspoken aspects of his life was criticizing the United States whenever the gears of war began to turn, and not just the government, but the press, the people, and the culture.
He had a complete falling out with Christopher Hitchens later in life over Bush's 2nd Iraq War. At one point he saw Hitchens as his intellectual equal, and someone who he believed would carry on fighting against American imperialism after Vidal's death. But once Hitchens started writing apologetics for Bush's 2nd Iraq War the two of them completely fell out.
Absolutely love his essays -- he's my favorite essayist. For those wanting an introduction to his work, I recommend his essay on Charles Lindbergh, "The Eagle is Grounded". You can read it online for free:
I taught Gore Vidal how to use a PowerBook in 1995 while he was in California to film his A&E biography. The ticket said "George Vidal" and he said he was a writer. I asked what he had written and he replied, "Check your local library." At the moment I knew it was the only and only Gore not George.
He hated the computer and said he was going back to writing longhand on legal pads. Still not sure if that was a joke or not.
The funny thing is that I was a creative writing major at the time and already knew of him. Of course, I didn't know what he looked like but as soon as he admitted being published, I immediately said, "Oh, you're GORE Vidal, not George Vidal." He laughed.
It is apparent to me that someone at HN is putting a thumb on the scale, probably dang, who as I recall has a degree in the liberal arts. I am totally fine with these bonus posts, many of which I ignore. I really love the curation of Hacker News.
His historical novels are great reads, for their irreverent take on American history, esp the novels 1876 and Burr. Burr esp, in the wake of recent Hamilton-mania, should be interesting, and also for the very swift manner in which revolutionary idealism gave way to political expediancy after the establishment of the republic, none of the major figures including Washington and Jefferson, Hamilton come across as good human beings in the final analysis.
Huffington Post, as recently as 4 or 5 years ago, were writing articles downplaying Polanski's rape of that girl. There is a surprising strain of Polanski apologism among those who are the first to claim the mantle of feminism.
I don't think it's an hypocrisy so much as a conservatism to avoid what happened to, oh, Fatty Arbuckle. Or HUAC'ers. This has waned a bit in the wake of Bill Cosby, but I always felt there was a desire to hold onto the greatness of these peoples' art for as long as possible before their reputations were sullied forever. Then again, The Cosby Show is back on TV in reruns, so what do I know.