In 1804, Colonel Aaron Burr, Vice-President of the United States, shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Three years later, on the order of President Thomas Jefferson, he was tried for treason: for plotting to dismember the United States. Gore Vidal, romping iconoclastically through American history, debunks, in this historical novel of ...
In 1804, Colonel Aaron Burr, Vice-President of the United States, shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Three years later, on the order of President Thomas Jefferson, he was tried for treason: for plotting to dismember the United States. Gore Vidal, romping iconoclastically through American history, debunks, in this historical novel of Burr's life, the common and casually held notion of the man as a scoundrel and an adventurer. Instead he appears as one of the 'host of choice spirits' forced to live among coarse, materialistic, hypocritical people ? among them Jefferson and Hamilton. Here, the latter appears as a power-hungry 'parvenu' from the West Indies and the former as a semi-literate slave-owning tyrant. American politics, suggests Vidal, had a penchant for the vulgar. Even then. Veering backwards to the revolution and the early days of the republic, stopping at dinner-parties on the way, and reaching forward to the future, BURR is a novel about treason, both the particular and in general. For what, asks Vidal, really belongs to whom? What properly belongs to the Constitution, to the nation, to the family ?even, intriguingly, to novelists and historians?
Historical fiction at the finest. A carefully researched and reconstructed portrait of Aaron Burr. If you are interested in the character and history of this time in early America this is an excellent place to start,
Dec 23, 2011
Wonderful book! Excellent research and beautifully written. A real treat.
Aug 27, 2009
Like you're actually there
Gore Vidal places less of himself beween the reader and the world he creates than any other novelist I can think of except Patrick O'Brian. Especially in the scenes of New York City in the 1830s, reading this is less like "reading a Gore Vidal novel" and more like stepping into a time machine and completely departing from everything in the present - including Vidal. It's like you're actually there.
Jan 21, 2008
All one would expect from Vidal
Gore Vidal?s take on the polemic character, Colonel Aaron Burr, provides everything one would expect from Vidal. Insight, cutting commentary and an entertaining spin on historical events. Reading this novel is like watching Muhammad Ali box; Vidal floats like a butterfly through dinner parties, the American Revolution, Constitutional debates and trans-American rail trips. The reader is, accordingly, given a panorama of the embryonic stages of the US. Interspersed amongst these beautiful flutterings are powerful stings whereby, in the matter of one page, Vidal uses the written word as a weapon striking a decisive blow against the hypocrisy of Jefferson and Hamilton. The rogue, Burr, emerges from this novel as the one truly noble figure of the Old Republic. The Vidalesque poetic license of the closing remark forces one to go back over the story in a manner only Vidal can compel.
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