I really don’t like it when I feel like a book is trying to teach me something. Sorry, I should rephrase that, I hate it when an author uses their craft to step up on a soap box and tell me that I am wrong or the way I think is not “correct”. In Creation, Gore Vidal covers some deep topics: from how the world was created, to what is right or wrong, just or unjust, what happens to us when we die and what is the purpose or meaning of life. And he did all of this without shoving anything down my throat, and Lord knows, that this subject matter could have allowed for this.
I listened to the Audible version of Creation and I have to say that Malcolm Hillgartner performed impeccably. The narrator, Cyrus Spitama, was a hardened curmudgeon, they make some of the best narrators, Hillgartner owned that role and his delivery was not only perfect to the character but captivated me from the opening scenes until the very end, all twenty-seven hours.
While I am well aware that you cannot count on a fiction book to always deliver historical facts, Vidal gave me the distinct impression that he did his homework. I came out of Creation feeling like I had learned a great deal about fifth century B.C. Persia, India and China, how these civilizations existed during this period and how small the world was way back then. We always think that global travel is a new thing, that ancient peoples were stuck or trapped in their little corners of the world, but I often come back to what one of my history professors said that ancient cultures had that no longer exists - patience. If it took twelve years to go to China and back, well it took twelve years, and everyone was okay with that.
An aspect of Creation that I adored was the point of view that Vidal brought to this time and place. Usually we see it only from the Athenian / Western point of view. It was brilliant how Vidal looked at everything from the Persian side. His mockery of our beloved democracy, his treatment of the great western thinkers to how Greece was so insignificant to the Persians. It wasn’t that the Greeks beat off the Persians, it just wasn’t worth the trouble.
This was my first odyssey into Vidal’s works, and it has given me the taste for more. From his irreverence to all of our western ideals to his respect to his audience to form their own opinion to his creation of incredible characters and bringing to life historical icons, this book was definitely an intriguing treat.