Vidal was a great thinker, and a great writer, with a ceaselessly open and curious mind. He was also a man who lived by and on his own terms, always. People often refer to Vidal as gay, but he did not identify himself that way. He was openly bisexual, and polyamorous, and he and Howard Austen, Vidal's life partner of more than 50 years, were open about separating their love life from their sex lives. In a society intent on binaries, that's a greater risk to be out about, unless you're Gore Vidal. He relished fame, loved publicity of any type, yet that somehow did not diminish his talents.
The obituary in The New York Times, written by the excellent Charles McGrath, is very good. But the best tribute I've read was written by Chris Floyd of Empire Burlesque, a blog Allan reads and recommends. You can read it here: Listen to the Lion: The Enduring Legacy of Gore Vidal.
It's a tribute to Vidal the writer, especially the novelist, but Floyd closes with this moving personal reflection.
On a personal note, it would be hard for me to overestimate Vidal's influence on how I see the world, in so many different areas. His death is like losing a spiritual father. (If I can be forgiven for using such an outrageous term for a man so entirely worldly!) His work schooled me and sharpened me and, in the words of Henry Miller (another writer he once wittily skewered, albeit with more affection than bile), "inoculated me with disillusionment" -- a task which Miller called the highest purpose of an artist. Vidal made me see the world -- and myself -- with new eyes, and taught me how to keep on seeing in this way: relentlessly, fearlessly, unsentimentally casting "a cold eye, on life, on death." I've fallen short of this teaching -- woefully, continually -- at nearly every turn, but it is still there, a lodestar in a night sky that is now a bit more lonely, more harrowing than it was.