CNN informs me Gore Vidal died today. This makes me sad, for I enjoyed his works. His short essays were thoughtful; his historical fiction books delightful. Indeed he wrote my favorite book of all time : “Creation”
It is a historical fiction novel about Cyrus Spitama, the grandson of Zoroaster. At the end of his life, he is dictating his memoirs to his great nephew while they live in Athens at the time of Pericles. In his life Cyrus saw the Great Persian Empire; in his travels he met The Buddha and Confucius. The novel conveys the histories of these civilizations, and Mr. Vidal compares and contrasts these major religions. Besides being informative, it has Mr. Vidal’s pithy sardonic wit. I reread it every five years or so, and never tire of it. It is what I call a “Thumping Good Read”.
Here is an except of (now blind) Cyrus dictating his memoirs:
“Quite true” said the pupil. The young mason is called Socrates. Uncommonly ugly, according to Democritus, I hired him to repair the front wall of the house . He made such a botch of it that we now have a dozen new chinks through which the icy winds can whistle. As a result, I have been obliged to abandon the front room entirely. Socrates has offered to re-do the wall but I fear that if he so much as touches the house with his trowel, the whole mud edifice will fall down about our ears. As as artisan, he is most disconcerting. In the midst of plastering a wall he is apt, suddenly, to freeze and stare straight ahead for minutes at a time, listening to some sort of private spirit. When I asked Socrates what sort of things the spirit told him, he simply laughed and said “My daimon likes to ask me questions’ This struck me as a highly unsatisfactory sort of spirit. But, I dare say, the lively Socrates is as highly unsatisfactory a sophist as he is a mason.
It is about time I reread this wonderful book. I will do so soon.
I thank you Mr. Vidal.