At his strongest, Vidal could cut to the bone because he knew the anthropology of politics from the inside. His was admittedly a love-hate relationship with the Washington he knew well. As much as he liked to cast himself as the acupuncturist of the mighty (without the analgesic effect), Vidal was drawn to their glamour and was wholly seduced by the beauteous Kennedys, even while acknowledging that their capacity for lies and intrigue were quite as habitual as anyone else in American politics.
As a page-turning novelist he was perhaps more nimble than deep, an elegant artificer rather than a hewer of prose monuments. But these were not meager skills. The gender-bent Myra Breckenridge is, in its peculiar way, a dazzling, baroque achievement, up there with the comic masterpieces of the last century, worthy of being shelved between Catch- 22 and A Confederacy of Dunces. As for his series of historical novels, Burr—in which Thomas Jefferson features as a sanctimoniously vain hypocrite and Alexander Hamilton as a mercurial soldier of fortune much taken with the invulnerability of his own cleverness—is for my money the best.