Iconic novelist and playwright Gore Vidal passed away in Hollywood yesterday, leaving behind a legacy of both incisive writing and cultural scrutiny. Vidal was often seen as ahead of his time, writing about gay characters when the topic was still considered taboo.
In 1948, Vidal published The City and the Pillar, which followed the life of a young sailor as he moves from coast to coast and boyfriend to boyfriend hoping to one day be reunited with the childhood best friend he’s still in love with. The book sparked a scandal at the time, as it both defied traditional gay stereotypes of the era, while also portraying the young man naturalistically rather than as inherently sick or immoral.
When it came to the culture at large, Vidal was also a consummate critic, unafraid to speak out against war or say things that might get him into trouble. He also enjoyed using written parody to make his points, as he did in the best-selling 1968 novel Myra Breckinridge, which featured a transgender protagonist. As a satire of Hollywood, the book has been criticized by some for not being an accurate depiction of a transgender experience, though it did introduce many readers to the concept for the first time.
Vidal also wrote a number of plays and scripts over his life, including an uncredited rewrite on the classic film Ben-Hur. In the documentary The Celluloid Closet, Vidal described inserting an unspoken insinuation that Ben-Hur and Masala had been lovers in order to spruce up the drama and get around censors.
Vidal spent the majority of his life with partner Howard August, who passed away in 2003. He told CNN that the two intended to be buried next to one another.