Michael Dirda at The Washington Post:
Vidal (1925-2012) was for more than half a century the wittiest gadfly on the American scene, almost a latter-day Mark Twain — but without the lovability of that white-suited curmudgeon. Like Twain, Vidal published best-selling books (“Burr,” “Lincoln”), experimented with literary forms (the gender-shifting comedy “Myra Breckinridge”), produced scores of cultural and political pieces (the collected essays, titled “United States,” run to a thousand pages) and was a charismatic storyteller and performer.
But where Twain cultivated his plain-folks image, Vidal was clearly a patrician, a scion of the American aristocracy. His immediate family included a grandfather who was a distinguished senator, a gold-digger mother (who once slept with Clark Gable) and a father who had starred on the gridiron at West Point, competed in the Olympics and helped build the American airline industry. During one of his mother’s marriages, Jacqueline Bouvier (later Mrs. John F. Kennedy) became a kind of stepsister.