He's known for many things, including his sharp wit. But it's time people recognize Gore Vidal for his equally sharp style. His new visual memoir, Gore Vidal: Snapshots in History's Glare, presents an overwhelmingly strong case that the novelist, essayist, and playwright should also be classified as a first-rate arbiter of style. The book's plethora of intimate photos from Vidal's younger days, whether at his home in upstate New York or at his villa in the Italian countryside, reveal something his written word can't—an innate ability to dress well.
There's a pensive, trim, tan Vidal leaning against the classical columns of his home, Edgewater, on the Hudson River. He's barefoot, wearing a pink polo shirt and khaki shorts. The clothes look like Lanvin's spring 2010 collection, and Vidal looks completely self-possessed. Then there's the image of him holding Paul Newman's firstborn child following the baptism. Vidal's dark plastic shades, dark blazer, white shirt, and skinny tie look as modern today as they did back then.
What's most impressive, though, is how Vidal stands out in photos with men like Newman, JFK, and Mick Jagger. He could have easily disappeared in the background, but instead he cuts a handsome figure. His level of confidence and his mastery of taste and dress is on par with them, if not, at times, slightly superior. Vidal's been in the presence of style icons for decades but has never been considered one himself. It's time to let him into the club. It could certainly use a few new members. And really, Steve McQueen has nothing on him.