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Gore Vidal

Live From Golgotha
Random House, 1992

Reviews:

When network executives travel back in time in order to broadcast the crucifixion of Christ, they find their plans complicated by a cyberpunk hacker intent on erasing Christianity with a computer virus. -Amazon.com

- Amazon.com , 12/19/2005


In the last few decades, Gore Vidal has written basically two kinds of novels: serious and usually excellent historical ones - "Julian", "Creation", "Lincoln", "Burr", etc. - and others that are satirical, not always so excellent and difficult to define: "Messiah", "Duluth", "Myra Breckinridge" and the like. Live from Golgotha is definitely of the second type, but it does concern some of Vidal's views on Jesus, Christianity and religion in general as he has written elsewhere. One gets the impression that the bare bones of his interpretation of the origins of Christianity are meant to be taken seriously. Therefore, it is also historical fiction of sorts. Let me say at once that many people will consider Live from Golgotha blasphemous in the extreme, since it touches on the very figure of Jesus. Those who are offended by this sort of thing shouldn't open it (and perhaps not even read the rest of this review). In a nutshell, Bishop (St.) Timothy, companion to (St.) Paul of Tarsus in his youth, begins to receive visits from the 20th century, who appear at first as holograms, later sometimes in person. He is told that in the 20th century, the past - including Timothy's present - has been recorded in tapes of light. A cyberpunk called The Hacker has launched computer viruses that are changing the tapes relating to the development of Christianity - and when the tapes are changed, so is the past, and therefore the present. Christianity is being constantly changed as more tapes are hit by the virus. Only the tapes of Timothy's life are safe, which is why he has to make sure that the true history - and doctrine - of Christianity survives. He does that by putting into writing his memoirs of his journeys with Paul, called "Saint" by most, and "Solly" by Peter. At the same time, NBC needs Timothy to act as anchor during the live from Golgotha coverage of the Crucifixion - and as the moment approaches, he keeps getting visits from a multitude of 20th century characters - including a NBC vice-president, Shirley MacLaine and the mysterious Marvin Wasserstein. Will the Hacker succeed in messing up Christianity? What kind of crucifixion will actually take place when Timothy is finally broadcasting on NBC Live from Golgotha? And where does General Electric stand on all that? The above plot might make the novel be classified as science fiction, but Vidal also deliberately mixes the past with the present, both in language and events. The result may be confusing to those used to linear narratives, but it all makes sense of a sort in the end. Vidal uses this device to make fun of many modern characters and trends such as political correctness, often very effectively. He also seems to give some of his views on a number of things, the most charming being Petronius's speech on life and aging. I found the novel extremely funny and enjoyable on many levels, after I stopped trying to make sense of the different timelines - it all comes together in the end. I strongly recommend the book - to those who do not mind "blasphemous" views and an unorthodox, even confusing, narrative. Those who do shouldn't open it. Peter Bartl 10/99

- Peter Bartl, 10/1/1999

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