Gore Vidal Biography


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

ph_0111228317-Vidal_Gore.jpg Gore Vidal in 1948. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Gore Vidal (Edgar Box) was born Eugene Luther Vidal to Eugene Vidal and Nina Gore Vidal on October 3, 1925, at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Washington, D.C.—the setting of much of Vidal’s fiction—and lived with his maternal grandfather, Senator Thomas Pryor Gore of Oklahoma. Vidal’s parents were divorced when he was ten. His mother married Hugh D. Auchincloss, and Vidal lived at the Auchincloss estate in Virginia while attending St. Alban’s School in Washington.

By the time Vidal was graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1940, he had toured England and the United States and renamed himself Gore Vidal. He joined the army in 1943, studied engineering at the Virginia Military Institute for one term, and was appointed to the rank of maritime warrant officer on October 24, 1944. Williwaw, his novel about his war experiences, was published in 1946.

After the war, Vidal traveled widely in Europe, Central America, and the United States, making his living writing and lecturing. After completing his modestly successful detective series in 1954 as Edgar Box, he abandoned that name and became a highly successful television writer for two years, authoring such scripts as Barn Burning (televised August 17, 1954) and The Turn of the Screw (televised February 13, 1955). By 1956, he was also writing film scripts for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. His stage play, Visit to a Small Planet: A Comedy Akin to a Vaudeville, published in 1956, ran for 338 performances on Broadway in 1957. Even more successful was his play The Best Man: A Play About Politics, which ran for 520 performances in 1960.

A political commentator, drama critic for The Reporter, candidate for Congress (in 1960) and for the Senate (in 1982), Vidal has been a prolific writer and a provocative public personality. His best-known and most highly acclaimed novels are Julian (1964), Myra Breckinridge (1968), Burr (1973), and Lincoln (1984). He has achieved even greater reputation as an essayist. His principal collection of nonfictional prose is Homage to Daniel Shays: Collected Essays, 1952-1972 (1972).


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Gore Vidal, named Eugene Luther Vidal at birth, was born on October 3, 1925, at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. His father, Eugene Vidal, was an instructor in the new science of aeronautics; he later founded airlines and in the 1930’s was director of air commerce for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Gore’s mother, Nina, was the beautiful and socially prominent daughter of Oklahoma senator Thomas P. Gore.

Soon after Gore’s birth, his family moved to Washington, D.C., and lived with his grandfather. Senator Gore was blind; in exchange for young Gore’s reading to him, the senator allowed his grandson to use his huge library. Gore began to educate himself at age five, when he could read and write. When the Vidal marriage ended in divorce in 1935, Nina married Hugh D. Auchincloss, a wealthy investment banker. Gore moved to the huge Auchincloss estate in Virginia, only a few miles from his grandfather Gore.

Young Gore grew up among the United States’ political, economic, and journalistic elite. He attended good private schools with other young men from prominent families, spending the happiest three years of his life at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. After he graduated in 1943, during World War II, he immediately went into the Army. He never went to college but is considered one of the most learned literary figures of his generation.

Before he left the Army in 1946, Vidal finished writing his first two published novels, Williwaw (1946) and In a Yellow Wood (1947). These established him as one of the best of the young postwar writers. By 1954 he had published eight novels, but it was his third novel that would affect the rest of his...

(The entire section is 706 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Gore Vidal has proved to be the master of historical fiction in the post-World War II era. His concern with the nature of Western civilization and with the way people gain and use power has led him to explore history from sixth century b.c.e. Athens to modern Washington, D.C. Wit, irony, and deep pessimism about the human estate characterize his work.