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Messiah (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics) (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) Paperback – January 1, 1998

4.3 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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  • Messiah (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics) (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin)
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Gore Vidal (1925–2012) was born Eugene Luther Vidal, later adopting the surname of his grandfather, Senator Thomas Gore, as his first name. Well known as a novelist, an essayist, a playwright, and a social and political commentator, he was the author of numerous novels—the first, Williwaw, written when he was twenty-one—as well as scripts for film, television and the stage, including the extremely successful The Best Man and Visit to a Small Planet. His other novels include Myra Breckenridge (1968), as well as thehistorical novels in the series Narratives of Empire, which includes Burr (1973), 1876 (1976), Lincoln (1984), Empire (1987), Hollywood (1990), and The Golden Age (2000). He won the National Book Award in 1993 for his book of essays, United States: Essays (19521992). 
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Product Details

  • Series: Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (January 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141180390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141180397
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #597,415 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on June 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
According to the back cover of the Penguin edition of Gore Vidal's "Messiah," this novel was first published in 1954. With that in mind, the book is unsettlingly prophetic in its depiction of a media driven, controversy-plagued religious movement; it's almost as if Vidal had looked into the future and seen the coming era of televangelists and death cults.
"Messiah" is told in the first person by Eugene Luther, a key figure in the rise of the Cavite movement. This new religion is founded by John Cave, who preaches the simple message that "it is good to die." Vidal uses a very effective narrative device: Luther is an older man who alternates between narrating his current life in exile and the birth if the Cavite movement 50 years previously. Thus, the reader essentially gets two parallel stories of the same man at different stages in his life.
"Messiah" could be read as a sort of science fiction novel: one based not in the physical sciences, but rather in a flight of fancy derived from concepts from the social sciences. Vidal's novel is flawed in that the Cavite movement is not fleshed out enough to be wholly convincing. But what's here is indeed intriguing. Vidal looks at the creation of the new religion's scriptures, infighting among the new faith's inner circle, etc. He ultimately considers some big questions, such as the plasticity of history in the service of dogma. And the book is very much a reflection on religion in the United States; one character notes that "America is particularly known for religious maniacs."
I think of "Messiah" as one of a group of literary works that look at the creation of imaginary new religions. As companion texts, I recommend Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle" and Tony Kushner's 2-part play "Angels in America."
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Format: Paperback
Written in 1955 as a reminiscence of an original leader of the Cavean "Relgion" writes his memoirs in a future 50 years away (i.e. 2005), this scary and bizarre allegory on the beginnings of religions is vintage Vidal in all his devious, unflappable glory.A totally vacuous and creepy "founder" looks good on TV, and enlists a group to peddle his wares, and within a few years, thanks to some good marketing, financing, and TV coverage, becomes a new world wide religion, with the main theme of accepting death as glorious, and perhaps even better than life. There are parallels with many major religions, and some new ones, mainly scientology. Now in 2005, belief in the supernatural seems here to stay, and maybe even stronger than in 1955. So once again, the incomparable Mr. Vidal hits another bulls-eye:strange, realistic, funny, ironic, and horrible.
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Format: Paperback
Great Literature opens the window for all to see what is hidden behind ordinary verbiage-to make transparent words that cloak and distort the world. Vidal allows John Cave and his other characters to speak like few others have spoken. Life is "like a spray in the ocean. There it forms, there it goes back to the sea." "Neither revenge nor reward, only the not-knowing in the grave which is the same for all." "It is good to die." John Cave discovered that with his proposal to establish suicide centers came the obligation for himself, like Christ, to take leave of earth. Like all messiahs Cave had to take the final step, showing mankind his Cavesway.
This is a great novelization of ideas best expressed by Eric Hoffer, THE TRUE BELIEVER, who tried to account for the rise of Hitler, Stalin, and others. The catalyst for mass movements are groups who are bored and frustrated by the mechanized societies that spawn them. The character Clarissa remarks, "boredom, finally, is the one monster the race will never conquer-the monster which will devour us in time." Cave's message was to "minds corseted and constricted by familiar ways of thinking, often the opposite of what they truly believed." Vidal wasn't writing to those who thoughtlessly accept life as it is and was dished out. I consider this book great literature.
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Format: Paperback
I'm a Christian but I am still amazed at this masterful novel by Gore Vidal. Vidal is a humanist, or atheist, and many of his pointed barbs in this novel aim at Christianity. It is flawed. As another reviewer noted, Caveism isn't fleshed out in the narrative, and there's no real explanation for its global popularity. It is a religion of death but Vidal might maintain both Christianity and Islam are religions of death.
Yet Vidal is such a good writer and his prose so stunning in this novel, the book can be read simply to admire the author's writing whether you agree or disagree with his philosophic points. Vidal was at the peak of his writing powers during this period and it shows.
One minor yet interesting point. The narrator's name is Eugene Luther, which is Vidal's real name.
I obviously disagree with Vidal's view of Christianity but the novel remains highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
This book is utterly brilliant. I picked this book up at a book store in Paris and read the entire thing in one sitting (standing, walking... etc.). Basically, I couldn't put it down. It gives the reader a detailed account of a new religion being created and converting the world by storm.

The interesting part is how realistic it all seems, and the ties to the way Christianity crushed its opponents and absorbed many of their holidays and even some of their traditions in order to make itself stronger.

This book will leave you wanting more and truly questioning religion. It addresses things we don't often think about. And shows a messiah with speech writers, much like a politician. John Cave (initials J.C.) is a modern-day you-know-who that preaches a doctrine of death that people are only too eager to swallow.

I don't want to say more and give anything away, but if you're at all interested in what I've said so far, check this book out!
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