Celebrated American man of letters Gore Vidal has died at the age of 86 after a long illness. Vidal—a novelist, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, and political commentator—died of complications from pneumonia at his home in the Hollywood Hills, reports AP. In his long career, he penned 25 novels, including historical works like Lincoln and Burr and satires like Myra Breckenridge, and more than 200 widely acclaimed essays on subjects including politics, sexuality, and religion.
Vidal, a political pundit who twice ran for office as a Democrat, was a fixture on talk shows in the 1960s and '70s, and famously nearly came to blows with conservative commentator William F. Buckley at a TV debate during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. "I never thought about myself as a 'personality,'" he told Entertainment Weekly in 2006. "To go around in a purple suit or something just to get attention—that’s not my style. But you’ve got to amuse yourself somehow, you know? And I find that being on TV is a lot more amusing than actually watching it."