This is not a regular obituary, but then again, Gore Vidal was not a regular guy. Instead, he was a heady cocktail: one-third talent, one-third wit, and one-third arrogance. He was also a somewhat better-than-average novelist, interesting playwright and screenwriter, and a noteworthy essayist. A man of letters, certainly, and, no less certainly, a star.

What does star mean in this context? Besides literary aptitude, it means he was a vivid presence on the cultural horizon. Someone whom perhaps relatively few have read, but whom, from frequent TV/span> appearances, a great many can recognize, and even, grudgingly or not, admire.

Admire for what? For personality, outspokenness, repartee, and cheek. And, unlike so many successful writers, he was good-looking. But not like, say, Norman Mailer, with his slightly disheveled, vaguely street corner-ish&nb ...