A good read about Gore Vidal in The Guardian: "A life in feuds: how Gore Vidal gripped a nation," by Jay Parini, poet, novelist, critic, and author of Every Time a Friend Succeeds Something Inside Me Dies: The Life of Gore Vidal (published by Little, Brown this month).
Vidal vs. Capote:
Vidal lived in New York after the war, as did Capote, and they moved in the same social circle, over which Tennessee Williams presided.
Theirs was a minor squabble, with neither side missing a chance to make a joke about the other. But the feud expanded in the 60s, after Vidal had been – according to Capote, in an interview with Playgirl – tossed out of the White House by Bobby Kennedy because he was “drunk and obnoxious”. In fact Kennedy had taken offence at Vidal’s apparent intimacy with Jacqueline Kennedy – the first lady was distantly related to Vidal by marriage – and the writer had left in a huff. Vidal sued Capote over the remark, and Capote countersued. The legal case dragged on with Vidal winning in the end, though Capote had no money by then, so it was a Pyrrhic victory.
Their wrangling continued until Capote, ill from his abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs, died in the late summer of 1984. When Vidal’s editor called from New York with news of his rival’s death, Vidal remarked after the briefest pause: “A wise career move.”
Mailer had made a huge splash with The Naked and the Dead, his bestselling novel of the Pacific war, frustrating Vidal, whose own war novel, Williwaw, had barely registered. The two young writers circled each other warily, and a complicated friendship began that would play out over the next five decades. The two had little in common. “Norman imagined himself by nature a kind of boxer – though he wasn’t, not really,” says Gay Talese, a friend to both men. “In reality, Norman was soft. But he put on this aggressive mask. Vidal had another kind of mask: cool, suave, worldly-wise. It was a good contrast with Norman. They played well together, but it was always a kind of act. They both understood the publicity value of this contest, and they let it play out in different ways.”
Vidal vs. Buckley:
Their most infamous confrontation came in 1968, events now captured in the feature-length documentary film Best of Enemies.
[ABC's live broadcast of the] Buckley-Vidal debates attracted 10 million viewers for each session and the saturation coverage turned both men into celebrities.
The evening debate [on the 28th of August] contained fireworks of a kind never before seen on prime-time American television. Buckley spoke for the older generation when he decried the lawlessness in the streets. He exuded patriotism. When asked by Smith if raising a Viet Cong flag in the midst of the Vietnam war was unduly provocative, Buckley nodded, saying it was like raising a Nazi flag in the US during the second world war. Vidal shook his head, referring again and again to the “right to assembly”. “What are we doing in Vietnam if you can’t freely express yourself in the streets of Chicago?” he wondered.