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Burr by Gore Vidal
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I read Burr many years ago and enjoyed the irreverent attitude Burr (and others) had towards the Founding Fathers. I recently decided to re-read this before reading the rest of Gore Vidal's Narratives of Empire historical fiction books. I enjoyed it this time around also.

Here's how Burr sees General Washington: "the small dull eyes in their vast sockets stared at me with wonder". Not even good ol' George escapes Burr's scathing and sardonic observations.

While reading this the second time around, I noticed that this book is very male-centric -- females are very much minor characters here. Yes, it's true that much of history is examined through the male gaze, that women's part in history has a tendency to be overlooked. The next book in this series is Lincoln; it'll be interesting to see if the almost all male history continues in this way. With Vidal as the author, it may very well be. ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Apr 26, 2017 |
Gore Vidal's Burr: A Novel represents the best type of historical fiction. Vidal does not bind himself to historical fact except where it enhances the narrative, at times moving people through time or space to better his story, but using the dynamism of the history he describes to drive his tale. He even creates a fictional protagonist, Charles Schuyler (not of the Schuylers into whose family Alexander Hamilton married), in order to allow him access to the object of his focus. Though Vidal appears to attempt a rehabilitation of Aaron Burr's reputation, he describes him as "a monster, in short" (pg. 4). Vidal's descriptions of Burr return continuously to diabolic imagery. He writes, "Aaron Burr has made an arrangement with the devil. Every dark legend is true" (pg. 69). Vidal's Burr continually reclines near a fire, unable to stay warm even in summer. Vidal's protagonist writes of Washington City, "If this is not Hell, it will do. I have never been so hot. I can see why Colonel Burr wanted to be president - to revel in the stifling, damp heat of this depressing tropical swamp" (pg. 409). Even his desire to keep his word evokes Milton's Lucifer. Vidal writes, "In politics, as in life, one ought to do what one has promised to do. This has been my Quixotic code" (pg. 194). This foreshadows the concept of honor that historian Joanne B. Freeman later argued prevented Burr from dropping his campaign for the presidency when he tied with Jefferson in 1800. Despite these literary touches, Vidal delights in accurately describing individuals as they might have appeared to Burr as well as the locations in which they worked and lived. He even tells the story of Helen Jewett, who had faded from notoriety by the 1970s and would not experience a resurgence of popular interest until Patricia Cline Cohen's 1999 biography. Historians, both professional and casual, of the colonial and early Republic periods will find much to enjoy in this novel. ( )
  DarthDeverell | Dec 23, 2016 |
Absolutely fantastic. It gives a penetrating look at the frailties of our new republic and also serves as a touchstone to our current times. ( )
  librken | Dec 17, 2016 |
I read this when it was first published and didn't have that fond a memory of it, but I reread it for the November 2016 (Presidents, Veeps, and Elections) topic of the Reading Through Time group and enjoyed it quite a good bit. I think, perhaps, you may need to be a bit older when reading it, or have a bit deeper understanding of American history of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, to catch the humor in Burr's catty voice – a cattiness, of course, that one associates with Vidal himself. ( )
  CurrerBell | Nov 6, 2016 |
This is both a book to respect and to enjoy. Vidal delivers. Intelligent, but smooth. The story moves along flawlessly, achieving a wonderful steady momentum. He does not duck from the complexity of the political landscape- rather going a step further, to add nuance to the period’s conflicts. Plus, he gives us an unforgettable hero/villain in Burr; daring in his youth, devastatingly charming as an old man. I am thoroughly impressed by this book. ( )
  Alidawn | Jan 29, 2016 |
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For my nephews Ivan, Hugh and Burr
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A Special Despatch to the New York Evening Post:
Shortly before midnight, July 1, 1833, Colonel Aaron Burr, aged seventy-seven, married Eliza Jumel, born Bowen fifty-eight years ago (more likely sixty-five but remember: she is prone to litigation!).
We do not want the old to be sharper than we. It’s bad enough that they were there first, and got the best things.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375708731, Paperback)

Gore Vidal's Narratives of Empire series spans the history of the United States from the Revolution to the post-World War II years. With their broad canvas and large cast of fictional and historical characters, the novels in this series present a panorama of the American political and imperial experience as interpreted by one of its most worldly, knowing, and ironic observers.

Burr is a portrait of perhaps the most complex and misunderstood of the Founding Fathers. In 1804, while serving as vice president, Aaron Burr fought a duel with his political nemesis, Alexander Hamilton, and killed him. In 1807, he was arrested, tried, and acquitted of treason. In 1833, Burr is newly married, an aging statesman considered a monster by many. Burr retains much of his political influence if not the respect of all. And he is determined to tell his own story. As his amanuensis, he chooses Charles Schermerhorn Schuyler, a young New York City journalist, and together they explore both Burr's past and the continuing political intrigues of the still young United States.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:44 -0400)

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A fictional memoir illuminating Aaron Burr's life and times, highlighting his political accomplishments and fatal duel with Alexander Hamilton.

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