‘Creation’ By Gore Vidal

The tale of Cyrus Spitama, grandson of Zoraoster (yes, that one) and uncle (or great uncle, more likely) of Democritus (yes, that one), who also knew the Persian emperors, Darius and Xerxes, and met the Buddha and Confucius.

Vidal knows that the chronology is not exactly right, I assume, but merely wanted to be able to use his character as thread to address power, family expectations, religion, politics, and, yes, creation.

I picked this particular book because I so enjoyed Julian, but Creation lacks the same quantity and quality sort of wickedly fun, learned name dropping that made that earlier book about the ancient world (albeit, late ancient) such a blast.

I suspect Vidal also thought that Creation was more philosophical than it was.

However, I am glad I read the long version. I gather that when it was originally published, the editor took out a couple hundred pages, thinking it too long. I don’t know which parts were cut, but I can’t imagine losing so much of it.

Prince Of Thorns

Not easy to get into, but grew on me. The hero is a young sociopath who maybe has an admirable goal? It opens setting him up as such a despicable character that I rather expected the real protagonist show and kill the teenage Jorg Ancrath. But, of course, he was the hero.

The setting is obliquely revealed as being some kind of post-apocalyptic Europe where magic appears to be real. But since left over science is also real, maybe later books will show it to have non-magical explanations. I don’t want to overrate what he does here. Lawrence is good, but this isn’t Gene Wolfe and Jorg isn’t Severin.

Who Will Remember?

This article was almost certainly inspired by Harold Bloom’s death (which I someone didn’t read about until several days after it happened. But it’s something I keep thinking about.

Who will read Harold Bloom in ten years? It’s a repeat of the question I asked after discovering Gore Vidal a few years after his death; and after Christopher Hitchens died. My favorite contemporary poets, too. Will their books even get a second printing?

Autobiography Of Thomas Jefferson

This slim book, which or may not have been intended for publication, is quite modest and circumspect. He does not speak much of personal matters (alluding obliquely to his wife’s death) but much of legislative comings and goings and you would barely know he was key figure in American history if this was all you had.

A surprising volume of the Autobiography is dedicated to the back and forth of government ministers, popular leaders, and nobles during the early stages of the French Revolution. While now it is common to give Mari Antoinette the benefit of the doubt, he explicitly blames the Queen and says there would have been no violent revolution if not for her vicious counsel.

He ends upon his appointment as Secretary of State. If there is some finger pointing and political score settling, it might be within asides about monarchial tendencies among some individuals who might be Hamilton or Adams (I suspect Adams).


My reaction to the President’s abandonment of our Kurdish allies is making me sympathetic to the late Christopher Hitchens’ seeming adoption of neoconservative foreign policy positions. It is even (gasp) making me less contemptuous of Bernard-Henri Levy, affectionately (?) known as BHL.

The Orwellian interventionist strain of liberalism (and I mean Orwellian not in the sense of doublespeak, but in the sense of his international engagements) seems to have resurfaced with the cowardly actions of the President and while I cannot say that I am any less in disagreement with the invasion of Iraq, I can honestly ask myself, is this how Hitchens saw things in the mid 2000s, the way so many of us see the President’s capitulation to Turkey?

Mount Analogue

I read about this book years ago. Well over a decade, at least. But out of print, of course.

But on my birthday, my two beautiful angels took me to Solid State Books to pick out a present and while randomly browsing, there it was.

It takes the form of an adventure story, with the narrator meeting a character similar to Professors Lindenbrock or Challenger, but everything driven by symbolic rather than scientific concerns. They are seeking a mountain which has an almost Cartesian reason for existing: it exists because something so necessary must. As you might have guessed, Daumal means ‘analogue’ in a pre-digital sense.

The book ends mid-sentence, the authors having apparently been interrupted by a friend’s visit and then dying before returning to his writing. He was in the middle of the story of a guide, living at the base of Mount Analogue, and how he broke the rules and was forced to remain at the base, rather than pursue a journey to the higher reaches.

This Thing Of Turning Old Books Into Journals Or Handbags Need To Stop

I was walking through a festival in Alexandria when I saw a book that caught my eye.

Charles Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare.

This was the book that made his fortune and allowed him to become a full time man of letters. I was thrilled.

But no. It’s a blank journal. The old book (it must have been from the thirties or twenties, at least) has been eviscerated and the words of an important figure of the English Romantic movement, a friend of Wordsworth and Coleridge, thrown out to make room for whatever insipid thoughts contemporary humanity sees fit to record.

A bad bargain.