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Gore Vidal, Novels, History, Personal Experience: Entertainmeent


Scratching the surface of history

I’ve never been much of a reader of novels, historical or otherwise. Gore Vidal’s historical fiction novel Burr was described in The New York Times by the American journalist, critic and novelist Christopher Lehmann-Haupt(1934- ) as “a dazzling entertainment, a tour de force of historical imagination, a devastating analysis of America's first principals,”1  When it was published in October 1973, I had just separated from my first wife;  I was teaching high school in South Australia, and was the chairman of the local assembly of Baha’is in the small town of Gawler in South Australia’s Barossa Valley.
Vidal’s latest novel was not on my agenda, nor was the now infamous Watergate affair in the USA, nor most of the news in the print and electronic media in that spring month of October.2  My mental and emotional life were fully occupied with a new dark heart of transition from a 7 year marriage,  separation, and, in the next two years a full divorce.   -Ron Price with thanks to 1The New York Times, 25 October 1973 and 2see several internet sites for lists of dozens of events in the news in that month of 1973.
What was the truth of early(1)
American history? Can one
speak of moral legitimacy?

Was it devoid of principle
as Vidal tells us through his
historical novel’s hunger for
the bitter truth?  I’ll have to
do some reading of those years
in American history when those
United States of America were
created & when Shaykh Ahmad
laid the foundations of a Shaykhi
school of an Ithna-Ashariyyih sect(2)
of Shi’ite Islam.  One can only scratch
the surface of history, Gore...We all do,
each in our own ways….You have sure
done your share of scratching, Gore, &
I wish you well as you head into those
final years on this earthly plain with
things contrary to your wishes and mine--
ordained, it seems, often beyond our control.
I trust you will get your days of blissful joy
in an undiscovered land where we all go and
where we speak & write no more: going, into
that hole where our end comes swiftly, more so
than the twinkling of an eye or the twinkle of a star.

1 Early American history, for my purposes here, is the 50 years from the birth of the USA to the deaths of the second president of the USA, John Adams(1797-1801) and, just a few hours earlier, Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence (1776), and the third President of the United States (1801–1809).  Both men were architects of that document which gave birth to this new Nation. They died 50 years to the day from the birth of the country they founded.

2. The earliest phase of Babi-Baha’i history also took place in the 50 years from 1775 to 1826 when the chief precursor of what was to become the newest of the Abrahamic religions left his home in northeast Arabia.  He became the leading mujtahid in the Shia world, the founder of Shaykhism and, like John the Baptist, prepared the way for the two manifestations of God: the Bab and Baha’u’llah.

Ron Price
18/5/'12 to 22/3/'14.

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