Gore Vidal dead at 86

gore-vidal-dead-dies-gi.jpgAuthor, playwright and commentator Gore Vidal died on Tuesday (July 31) at his Hollywood Hills home due to complications from pneumonia, says his nephew Burr Steers. Vidal was 86 and had been sick for "quite a while," Steers tells the Associated Press.

Among Vidal's accomplishments: One of the first novels featuring openly gay characters ("The City and the Pillar"), a Tony-nominated play ("The Best Man") and a National Book Award. Screenplays to his credit include "Suddenly Last Summer."

He was also considered one of the leading thinkers of his generation -- a generation that included celebrated writers Norman Mailer, Truman Capote and his conservative arch-enemy William F. Buckley.

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Vidal ran for office twice -- and lost -- but his mark on American group think is indelible. In essays and columns he faced down politicians, mocked religion, aired strident anti-war opinions and, as the AP notes, insulted his peers with relish (he once observed that the three saddest words in the English language were "Joyce Carol Oates.")

In his memoir, "Palmimpsest, he wrote that he'd had more than 1,000 sexual encounters. He never married, though he did share an Italian villa with companion Howard Austen for several years.

One of Vidal's most unusual friendships sprung up with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. The pair started exchanging letters after Vidal wrote an article in Vanity Fair.

"He's very intelligent. He's not insane," Vidal said of McVeigh in a 2001 interview.