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Messiah (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics) (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) Paperback – January 1, 1998
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Top Customer Reviews
"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."
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.
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.
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!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If someone had not told me that this is a wonderful book, I might well have given up reading it. For the most part, I found this book colourless, not particularly interesting, and... Read morePublished 16 months ago by ADAM
Gore Vidal's best, if most obscure, book. Prophetic in its depiction of what was to come in the 60's and 70's, and eerily precise in foreshadowing Jim Jones' death cult and the... Read morePublished 17 months ago by James Kenney
This is the third or fourth time I have read this book. The first time, I was in junior high school and now I am 61. It is just as good now as it was then. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Cyclerider
Mr. Vidal has written much more interesting books than this one, Can't recommend.Published 20 months ago by A. R. St Jean
Will make you think about what passes for religous faith.Published 21 months ago by Edward J. Buttler
I have yet to read this book, but I like it anyway because GOre Vidal is one of those people who told it like it is.Published on March 7, 2013 by Paige S. Puckett
This is the first Gore Vidal novel I have ever read. I guess he had to die before it clicked with me to check out his work. Read morePublished on December 24, 2012 by JasperJr
I read some of Vidal's historical novels years ago. This one floored me. It is still fresh and relevant today in 2012. I will read this one again.Published on December 12, 2012 by Lilspotteddog