Gore Vidal: Reenacts History Again and Again

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Gore Vidal: Reenacts History Again and Again

Post by RonPrice »


Section 1:

In March 1981 Gore Vidal published his 17th novel: Creation. Of all his novels it was the only one I actually read. Vidal was an American author, playwright, essayist, screenwriter, and political activist. He died this week on July 31 2012. I’ll let you read about him on the internet if you are interested. Some consider Vidal to be the master essayist of our age.

It was at least 25 years ago that I read Creation. Perhaps I was working in that tin mine in Zeehan Tasmania just after that novel came out. I was a maintenance scheduler as well as the secretary of one of the only two Baha’i groups on the west coast of Tasmania. It rained every two days out of three in that little town of less than a 1000; reading helped keep my mind alive in one of the many tedious jobs I’ve had in my working life, the half century from 1955 to 2005.

Perhaps I read Creation in the next town where I lived: Katherine in the Northern Territory of Australia. One of the hottest places I’ve ever lived was Katherine, 3 hours south of Darwin by car, a little town of 3000 back then. Air-conditioning made life liveable when the temperature soared to 40 and above, or even 30 and above. After the passing of more than a quarter century I found a review of this book in The New York Times on the web(1) and was able to refresh my memory of its contents. Reading fiction of any kind has rarely been on my reading agenda except when necessity called usually due to: (i) my role as a tutor or teacher, lecturer or adult educator at schools in Australia, or (ii) out of courtesy to a friend who wanted me to read some fictional piece of their writing.

Section 2:

Vidal’s novel Creation takes the form of the memoir-autobiography of one Cyrus Spitama, a half-Persian, half-Greek grandson of the prophet Zoroaster, but the novel is far more the story of a fortunate traveller. Spitama, a seeker after truth, lives at a time when it is possible for him to meet some of the greatest men in history. As every schoolboy used to know, the greatest historical period in the world, at least in the western intellectual tradition, was the fifth century B.C. The Buddha was alive, and so were Confucius, Herodotus, Thucydides, Pericles, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Protagoras, Anaxagoras, Socrates and Aristotle.

Zoroaster, Pythagoras, Nebuchadnezzar and Lao-Tzu had recently died and left zealous students; the caste system had just been established in India; Darius I of Persia ruled from the Nile to the Indus, and after his death, Xerxes became King of Kings; the great battles of Marathon and Salamis were fought; coins were entering general circulation. Cartography was beginning as triremes left the ports of Asia Minor for points east; and in Mexico the Teotihuacan civilization had developed hieroglyphic writing at Monte Alban in the Mixtec states.-Ron Price with thanks to 1 Paul Theroux, VIDAL'S 5TH CENTURY B.C., March 29, 1981, The New York Times, 29 March 1981.

Section 3:

I’ve enjoyed many of your
essays, Gore, and some of
your interviews….Perhaps
one day I may read more
of your novels but I think
not. There is too much to
read in the labyrinth of my
learning as I head through
these middle years(65-75)
of late adulthood(60-80) &
old age(80+)…if I last that
long…I did enjoy listening
to you talk and, for all that,
I thank you from the centre
of my mind’s heart & spirit.

I wish you well in your new
home……that undiscovered
country as some like to call
the afterlife when we go into
the hole for those who speak
no more----so it seems, Gore.

Ron Price
20/5/'12 to 3/3/'13

Most of the above was written on hearing of the passing of Gore Vidal, age 86.
married for 46 years, a teacher for 35, a writer and editor for 14, and a Baha'i for 54(in 2013)

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