Born in 1925 at the West Point Military Academy, Vidal grew up in Virginia and Washington and later shortened his name from Eugene Luther Gore Vidal Jr. to Gore Vidal because he considered it to be "more literary-sounding," according to the Times.
A prolific writer, Vidal published 25 novels as well as two memoirs, numerous essay collections, plays, screenplays and TV scripts. His best-known offerings include the play The Best Man, which was revived on Broadway this year; the novels Julian and Myra Breckenridge; and works of historical fiction such as Lincoln and The Golden Age. He also ran for public office twice — as a Congressional candidate in New York in 1960 and for a Senate seat in California in 1982.
Vidal's partially autobiographic 1948 novel The City and the Pillar was deemed pornographic at the time for its depiction of a young man's realization that he's gay. Because of the controversy the book caused, Vidal was forced to begin writing novels under a pseudonym, Edgar Box, and briefly gave up novels in favor of dramatic writing.
Throughout his career, Vidal publicly feuded with other writers and journalists including William F. Buckley, Norman Mailer and Truman Capote. He also targeted politicians, drawing ire after 9/11 by stating in essays that America's imperialist policies were to blame for the terrorist attacks, and alleging that President George W. Bush knew of the attack beforehand and used it for political gain.
Not one to limit his satire to the written word, Vidal also guest-starred (in animated form) on television shows like Family Guy and The Simpsons. He was also a regular guest on Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show and even guest-hosted the program.
In 2009, he received a lifetime achievement award at the National Book Awards in New York in one of his last public appearances.