The world has lost one of its most provocative and intelligent writers—Gore Vidal has died of pneumonia at 86. He seemed to be around forever, so much so that I was actually surprised to read he wasn't older.
Vidal's The City and the Pillar was the first book with gay themes I think I read, and I was able to get away with it because it was packaged as a classic. His outrageous Myra Breckinridge was influential to me and is one of my favorite novels; I just re-read it last year. And he was behind that scandalous kiss-and-tell by Scotty Bowers that came out just this year.
In college, I had his works prominently displayed (along with a Mapplethorpe postcard, Marilyn and Madonna memorabilia and various other clues), leading my new friend Zafar to puff on his cigarette and ask in a way he thought to be subtle: "Gore Vidal...are you a fan of his work...or his LIFE?"
In more recent times, I remember the intensely political Vidal bluntly asserting that George W. Bush—whose popularity was then soaring—would become one of the most hated presidents in history. His debate with William F. Buckley is also a classic part of American political discourse.
Really a tremendous loss, even if his bitter enemy Truman Capote is giggling somewhere.