Gore Vidal died this week. A man of letters, he might be best known or best remembered for his quirky cameo role in Gattaca (as Director Josef), one of the better SF films.
He was cursed to have a certain amount a literary facility that fell short of greatness. Able, but lacking ultimate distinction. A second-rate talent competing for attention. Vidal was witty, but after a while the witticisms become a means without an end. And it's no fun to be an aging queen. So he became more bitter with the advancing years.
Vidal was a New Atheist before the New Atheism was fashionable. Time had passed him by. His caustic wit reminds one of Christopher Hitchens, but Vidal was more self-consciously patrician, which limited his popularity.
A defining feature of Vidal was his homosexuality. He despised his mother. It’s quite rare for men to hate their mothers. Many men have conflicted feelings about their fathers, but they normally love their mothers.
I don’t think the combination of homosexuality and filial loathing is coincidental. By the same token, I don’t think his homosexuality and his atheism is coincidental.
Vidal led a rather aimless existence. Many sodomites of his generation led double lives, with a wife and kids. But in the decadent social circles he frequented, among the literati and glitterati, he didn’t need to conceal his perversion. So his life lacked the structuring principle of a normal family.
For more on Vidal’s life and legacy: