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In Gore Vidal's New York Times obituary, Charles McGrath described the writer as "the elegant, acerbic all around man of letters who presided with a certain relish over what he declared to be the end of American civilization." Vidal died Tuesday at the age of 86.
Some of the books Vidal became best known for were historical novels including Burr and Lincoln. As Reed Johnson wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "Vidal's revisionist outlook struck some critics as brilliant and others as almost gleefully perverse."
Vidal's satirical novel Myra Breckinridge is believed to be the first novel to feature a transsexual. His plays include the political drama The Best Man, which is currently back on Broadway, and his screenplays include Ben Hur. He wrote many provocative essays, ran for office twice — and lost — and frequently appeared on TV talk shows, where he famously sparred with William Buckley and Norman Mailer.
Vidal described himself as obsessed with America; his grandfather was a senator and his father served in Roosevelt's Cabinet. Terry Gross spoke with Vidal in 1988 and 1992. Fresh Air remembers the writer and critic with excerpts from those two interviews.