Gore Vidal - Nominee

1925 - 2012

Eugene Louis Vidal was born on October 3, 1925 in West Point, NY. He inherited his mother’s maiden name of “Gore” when he was baptized into the Episcopal faith at age 13. By age 14 he dropped his first two names because he "wanted a sharp, distinctive name, appropriate for an aspiring author, or a national political leader.” After graduating from Exeter in 1943, Vidal joined the U.S. Army which influenced his first novel, Williwaw, published at age 19. His third novel, The City and the Pillar (1948), is the story of professional tennis player who never outgrows a boyhood crush on his best friend. The idea that gay men circulate in society largely undetected was an outrage to many readers. At the publisher’s insistence, the original book ended with a violent death. In 1968, with the change in social values, Vidal published a revised version. That book is often cited as the first mainstream coming-out novel. Though he rejected being thought of as a ‘gay author’ and did not much embrace the gay community, most of his work featured more or less prominent gay characters, making him a huge influence in expanding gay visibility in mainstream fiction – even though, ironically, he believed public knowledge of his sexuality denied him full recognition from the literary community in the United States. Among his 22 novels were the fictional transgender opus Myra Breckinridge, and the plot-oriented historical fiction novels Burr, Julian, and Lincoln. Vidal also wrote over 200 essays focusing mainly on sex, politics, and religion and the American character. As a public intellectual, his topical debates with the likes of William F. Buckley Jr. and Norman Mailer often became continuing quarrels. Known for his sharp wit and biting commentary as well as his ‘quotability’ and insight, in 1993 he won a National Book Award for his collection United States: Essays, 1952-1992 and two years later his memoir, Palimpsest was met with great praise. Believing men and women were all potentially bisexual, Vidal rejected "homosexual" and "heterosexual" as identities. Nonetheless, he lived in Italy with his partner of fifty-three years, Howard Austen, until Austen’s death in 2003. Afterwards, Vidal sold their villa and moved to Los Angeles, where he died of complications from pneumonia on July 31, 2012.

Gore Vidal Headshot

Demography

Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Faith Construct Protestant

Nations Affiliated United States Italy

Era/Epoch Information Age (1970-present) World War II (1939-1945)

Field(s) of Contribution

Author

Film

Journalism

Military

Politics

Television

Theater

Commemorations & Honors

Edgar Award for Best Television Episode Teleplay (1955)

National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism for The Second American Revolution and Other Essays (1982)

Ambassador Book Award for American Arts and Letters (1989)

National Book Award for Nonfiction (1993)

Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre Memorial for Gore Vidal in Manhattan Hosted by Dick Cavett (2012)

Authorship

Original Biography Author
Anthony Milspaugh
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell