Burr
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Burr
Gore Vidal
Literature
Aug 7, 2018
Written out of chronological sequence and gathered together after the fact under the rubrics “Narratives of Empire” or “The American Chronicle,” Gore Vidal’s lively, fact-based fictions—Burr (1973), Lincoln (1984), 1876 (1976), Empire (1987), Hollywood (1990), Washington, D.C. (1964), and The Golden Age (2000)—are an astonishingly engaging course in our nation’s past. The author’s urge to debunk with insider’s insight the personalities of the powerful adds piquancy to his portraits of grandees from Washington and Jefferson to Henry Adams, William Randolph Hearst, and Franklin Roosevelt. But this book, devoted to the exploits of Aaron Burr (1756–1836), is in a class by itself. In Vidal’s depiction, Burr is charming (marrying a rich widow despite his advanced years), savvy (leveraging his connection to the current occupant of the office of vice president, Martin Van Buren, who may or may not be his illegitimate son), and scheming (he still has eyes for a large parcel of land in Texas). Best of all, Burr is wholly fascinating as he shares his memories with the book's narrator, Charlie Schuyler, replete with unflattering intelligence regarding his legendary comrades in the early years of our federal government (none of whom impressed Burr). Witty and enlivened with intrigue throughout, Burr is, quite simply, a joy to read.
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Dec 2, 2018
Terrific rendering of founding fathers. Vidal is irreplaceable.
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