Gore Vidal, the celebrated US author, commentator and playwright, has died at 86, his family said. Vidal died at home in Hollywood on Tuesday of pneumonia, his nephew Burr Steers was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times.
He was the author of 24 novels, five plays, many screenplays, more than 200 essays, and the critically acclaimed memoir, Palimpsest, of his first 39 years that was published in 1995. He won the 1993 National Book Award in the United States for his compilation titled United States: Essays 1952-1992.
His acerbic observations on current and cultural affairs also made him a high-profile and sometimes controversial commentator with several running feuds with politicians and other celebrities.
"I'm exactly as I appear," he once said. "There is no warm, lovable person inside. Beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water."
Vidal was born on October 3, 1925 at the United States Military Academy, West Point, where his father was the first aviation instructor.
At 17 he enlisted in the army, after graduating from Phillips Exeter Academy.
His first novel, Williwaw, which had a World War II theme was published in 1946. From his early works such as The City and the Pillar (1948) and Messiah (1954), he went on to write two Broadway plays, Visit to a Small Planet (1957) - about an alien who instigates conflict between the US and Soviet Union; and the prize-winning The Best Man (1960), a political drama that was made into a movie in 1964.
His political commentary was not only limited to writing. Vidal ran for Congress in New York in 1960, and came in second in the California Democratic senatorial primary in 1982, according to his official biography.
At the Berlin International Literary Festival in 2004, Vidal made a scathing verbal attack on president George W Bush's Iraq policies, and said he would vote in presidential elections that year for the first time since 1964. "It's too serious not to," he said.
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