The A-Z of Gore Vidal

He loved the Kennedys, hated Truman Capote and claimed he slept with 1,000 men and women before he was 25. We celebrate the life of Gore Vidal

On the campaign … congressional candidate Vidal with presidential hopeful JF Kennedy, August 1960.
On the campaign … congressional candidate Vidal with presidential hopeful JF Kennedy, August 1960. Photograph: Associated Press

A is for America

Vidal described his homeland as the United States of Amnesia. Throughout his life he railed against how he felt it had betrayed its founding principles. "The United States was founded by the brightest people in the country – and we haven't seen them since," he said once. "Congress no longer declares war or makes budgets. So that's the end of the constitution as a working machine." He also had little time for the office of president, at least when that office wasn't occupied by a Kennedy, saying: "Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically by definition be disqualified from ever doing so."
He told the Times three years ago that the US is "rotting away at a funereal pace. We'll have a military dictatorship pretty soon, on the basis that nobody else can hold everything together." There was a gleefulness in Vidal's acerbic denunciations of the US: significantly, the New York Times's obituarist yesterday charged that he "presided with a certain relish over what he declared to be the end of American civilisation".

B is for Bush

It's no surprise then that he detested George W Bush. Indeed, Vidal claimed the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 occurred because the Bush administration was "incompetent" and Bush himself was "inactive and inopportune". Vanity Fair refused to publish an essay he wrote reflecting on the attacks. In another essay, published by the Independent, he compared the attacks to the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbour, arguing that both presidents Franklin D Roosevelt and Bush knew of them in advance and used the disasters to advance their agendas. "We should stop going around babbling about how we're the greatest democracy on earth, when we're not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarised republic."

C is for Capote

Not all Vidal's targets were political. He had a lengthy feud with fellow writer Truman Capote. Capote, perhaps, started it. He gave an interview saying that Vidal had been thrown out of the White House for drunkenness and quarrelling with Jackie Onassis's mother. Vidal took Capote to court for libel, where the two traded insults. Vidal suggested Capote had "raised lying into an art – a minor art". Capote retorted: "Of course, I'm always sad about Gore. Very sad that he has to breathe every day." After the pair settled out of court, their feud continued – even outliving Capote. After the death of his nemesis in 1984, Vidal insulted Capote one last time, saying his death had been "a good career move".
Full story at The Guardian.