As for the nation’s leaders, he wrote: “They can no longer write their own speeches or books, and there is some evidence they cannot read them either.” In a postscript to an essay in Esquire on the “Holy Family” (the Kennedys) he argued: “Our political system has become a game for the very rich.” It was a position that was itself bound to attract detractors.
Norman Mailer went so far as to headbutt Vidal while they were in a television green room, waiting to appear together on a chat show. When Truman Capote made a comment about Vidal being thrown out of the Kennedy White House, Vidal sued for libel. Despite what Vidal wrote in Esquire, he was never slow to mention that he was himself related to that Holy Family – his mother (after separating from his father) having married Hugh Auchincloss, stepfather to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Years later Vidal wrote: “I wanted to take risks, to try something no American had done before.
I decided to examine the homosexual underworld (which I knew rather less well than I pretended) and in the process show the 'naturalness’ of homosexual relations.” Published two years after Iwo Jima, the book was dedicated “to JT”.
He attended St Albans school in Washington, where he had the defining romantic experience of his life (he always derided the term “gay” and later said that he had had sex with 1,000 people of both genders by the time he was 25).
The object of his affection was Jimmie Trimble, an athletics star who was to die at Iwo Jima, thus preserving forever the image of the romantic ideal in Vidal’s mind.Further novels followed — The Season of Comfort; A Search for The King; Dark Green, Bright Red; The Judgment of Paris; and Messiah (none very successful commercially) — and three detective stories which, possibly as a reaction to the “blacklisting” after The City and the Pillar, he wrote under the nom de plume Edgar Box.As his career as a novelist dwindled away in the 1950s he contributed to, rather than wrote, screenplays for MGM, Columbia, Warner Brothers and United Artists.In his own country he found no conversation worthy of the name, and detected a failure of education, manners on the decline, and political leaders cynical, ignorant and blinded to the realities of the outside world.The morals and lifestyle of his countrymen he found abhorrent, and the state of literature and popular entertainment, especially television, almost – but not quite – beyond words.Naturally Vidal himself was immune to such corruption, and appeared on television as often as he could to ram home the point.It was a compliment to his talent and wit that he could appear with such frequency on the most popular medium to deride popular culture, and be welcomed back the following week to do it again.Eugene Luther Gore Vidal was born on October 3 1925 at West Point Military Academy, New York, where his father, also Eugene, was a flying instructor and sporting star.Eugene Sr and Nina, Vidal’s socialite mother, divorced in 1935 and the boy went to live with her on Auchincloss’s estate in Virginia.Boundless confidence in his own talents manifested itself in disparagement of the plebeians of this world.But he also went out of his way to put down the American academic and literary worlds, which largely ignored him and which he lambasted for setting standards for excellence to which he did not subscribe.