Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal (Eugene Luther Gore Vidal, Jr.), 1925–2012, American writer, b. West Point, N.Y. He grew up in Washington, D.C., where a formative influence was his witty and scholarly grandfather, Senator Thomas Gore of Oklahoma. Vidal was an acerbic observer of the contemporary American scene and an acute commentator on the nation's history. His first novel, Williwaw (1946), was based on his experiences in World War II. The City and the Pillar (1948, rev. ed. 1965) was one of the first mainstream novels to deal frankly with homosexuality. His best-known novel, the best-selling Myra Breckenridge (1968), is a witty satire about the Hollywood adventures of a glamorous transsexual.

Vidal's historical fiction includes an interlocking septet of American novels—consisting of Washington, D.C. (1967), Burr (1973), 1876 (1976), Lincoln (1984), Empire (1987), Hollywood (1990), and The Golden Age (2000)—as well as Julian (1964), Creation (1982), Live from Golgotha (1992), and The Smithsonian Institution (1998). In all, he wrote some 25 novels. Among his plays are Visit to a Small Planet (1955) and The Best Man (1960, film 1974), a drama concerning a presidential election that mirrored his political interests—he ran unsuccessfully for the House (1960) and the Senate (1982). He also wrote screenplays and television dramas. Vidal's sharply argued, stylish, and often controversial essays, which some critics consider his finest works, are collected in several volumes, including Reflections on a Sinking Ship (1969), The Second American Revolution (1982), Armageddon (1987), Screening History (1992), United States: Essays 1952–1992 (1993), and The Last Empire: Essays 1992–2000 (2001). He also wrote murder mysteries under the name Edgar Box.

See his memoirs, Palimpsest (1995) and Point to Point Navigation (2006); R. J. Stanton and G. Vidal, ed., Views from a Window: Conversations with Gore Vidal (1980); R. Peabody and L. Ebersole, ed., Conversations with Gore Vidal (2005); biography by F. Kaplan (1999); studies by B. F. Dick (1974), R. F. Kiernan (1982), J. Parini, ed. (1992), S. Baker and C. S. Gibson (1997), and S. Harris (2005); N. Wrathall, dir., Gore Vidal: United States of Amnesia (documentary, 2014).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Gore Vidal: Selected full-text books and articles

Gore Vidal: A Critical Companion By Susan Baker; Curtis S. Gibson Praeger Publishers, 1997
Williwaw By Gore Vidal E.P. Dutton & co., 1946
Rocking the Boat By Gore Vidal Little, Brown, 1962
After the Lost Generation: A Critical Study of the Writers of Two Wars By John W. Aldridge McGraw-Hill, 1951
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XI "Gore Vidal: The Search for a King"
Political Mythology and Popular Fiction By Ernest J. Yanarella; Lee Sigelman Greenwood Press, 1988
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Political Change in America: Perspectives from the Popular Historical Novels of Michener and Vidal"
Temporarily FREE! Dystopian Literature: A Theory and Research Guide By M. Keith Booker Greenwood Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: "Gore Vidal: Messiah (1954)" begins on p. 264
Contemporary Gay American Poets and Playwrights: An A-to-Z Guide By Emmanuel S. Nelson Greenwood Press, 2003
Librarian’s tip: "Gore Vidal (1925-)" begins on p. 427
Leaders from the 1960s: A Biographical Sourcebook of American Activism By David DeLeon Greenwood Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: "Gore Vidal (1925-)" begins on p. 454
Encyclopedia of the Essay By Tracy Chevalier Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997
The Importance of Being Gore By Kopkind, Andrew The Nation, Vol. 257, No. 1, July 5, 1993
We Are the Patriots. (Articles) By Vidal, Gore The Nation, Vol. 276, No. 21, June 2, 2003
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