One reason I wouldn’t mind taking my near-complete holdings of Gore Vidal away to a far place is that there maybe I could just enjoy reading the writer and not always be having to ponder the Personality. There’s not much wrong with the Personality: he’s usually on the right side, and eloquently so. But the best of the writing is much more telling than the Personalityâ€”or any Personality, is likely to be. I refer particularly to Julian, to Homage to Daniel Shays, and to the excellent Messiah, a book that’s not remotely had its due.
Messiah deals with the rise of the next great religion of Western civilization, and the collapse and destruction of Christianity. It takes the form of the memoirs of Eugene Luther, a former apostle of Cavism. Founded by one John Cave, a California Undertaker, Cavism holds that it is a good thing to die–a holy thing, in fact, preferable to living. After the experience of the Jonestown massacre, David Koresh, and the Heaven’s Gate cult, Vidal’s distopia seems less fantastic than it did when the book was first published in 1954.
Oh, yes, and note the sly jokes: John Cave (J. C.) and Eugene Luther (Vidal’s full name is Eugene Luther Gore Vidal).