The novelist, essayist, playwright, historian, and all-around brilliant author died today. He was 86. His two books of collected essays, United States and The Last Empire, are two of my all-time favorites. Others prefer his historical novels, and many prefer Myra Breckenridge/Myron, or his more recent historical writing, but for me, those two fat books of essays were transformative reading experiences. Vidal is from a long line of American aristocracy—he's connected in various ways to the Gores, Jackie Bouvier Kennedy, the Auchinclosses, and other old storied names—but he always wrote like he was pissed at everyone, and his elegant mannerisms never got in the way of the sharp stick he jabbed at the eyes of those in power. He wasn't always right, but he was always maddening in the best possible way. I will miss him.