Saturday, August 04, 2012

On The Passing of Gore Vidal

Since everyone else is writing on this, I might as well put in my two cents as well.

I've never actually read much Gore Vidal, although I've always been meaning to. After all, he seems like the kind of author who would be up my street: writes a lot of historical fiction from a liberal polemical standpoint.
His American Empire series in general, and Burr (W) in particular have long been on my list of "books to get around to someday."

The only thing by Gore Vidal I actually read was Julian (W). I read it in 9th grade for a book report project in English class. We were allowed to pick our own book for this project.
At the time I had no idea who Gore Vidal was, but I was going through my Roman Empire phase, and I was reading all the books our school library had on ancient Rome.

For anyone who's not yet read it, the book is a historical novel (apparently very well researched) about Julian--the Apostate--the Roman Empire who attempted to return Rome to Paganism years after Constantine had already made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Because the book is written from Julian's point of view, it is written to include his criticisms of Christianity, and what he sees as the virtue of Rome's ancient religion.

It is to the credit of my conservative Christian high school that they stocked this book in their library. But it was still a bit of an anomaly to find a book critical of Christianity in the school library, and, having gone into the book completely blind, I got really confused by it.
I kept waiting for Julian to realize his mistake, and for Christianity to be redeemed at the end of the book. When that didn't happen, I wasn't quite sure what to write on the book report.

This was 20 years ago now, so some of the details of the book are a bit vague in my memory. I remember it being well-written, but I also remember at the time feeling a bit restless with how slow the plot was moving. That could just have been because I was a lot more impatient at 14. I wonder what my reaction would be if I were to read it again now.
The other thing that sticks in my mind is the passages of the book dealing with sex.  If memory serves, it was nothing too explicit, but then I came from a Christian school background, and I was unused to any discussion of sex in a novel at all (aside from the moralizing anti-sexual polemics).   This may be another reason the book has stuck in my memory after all these years.

Link of the Day
Destroying the Commons

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