Burr by gore vidal, kindle edition 5 star review


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Burr by gore vidal, kindle edition 5 star review

  1. 1. Burr by Gore Vidal A Masterpiece Of Historical Fiction An extraordinarily intelligent and entertaining novel! NEWSWEEK Brilliantly realized, enormously readable, Gore Vidals #1 best seller paints a fascinating portrait of Aaron Burr, who lived out his long life partly as a suspected traitor and partly as one of the most heroic and colorful of the founding fathers. A fictional memoir based on actual facts, BURR describes the early struggles and endless intrigues of the United States. Vidal writes with so much drama and vigor that history comes alive, and the concerns of a new nation read like todays headlines. I finished this book slightly before midnight, December 31, 2008, making it the last book I finished in the year, as well as one of the best. The book starts slowly, but as it gets to Burrs Memoirs it quickly picks up steam and remains utterly fascinating until the very end. In his Narratives of Empire series Gore Vidal has provided us with a novelistic recounting of American political history from the Revolution to World War II. In each of the seven novels in the sequence -- BURR, LINCOLN, 1876, EMPIRE, HOLLYW OOD, WASHINGTON D.C., and THE GOLDEN AGE -- the fictitious Charles Schuyler or one of his descendents
  2. 2. plays a conspicuous role, except for LINCOLN, where Schuyler appears only in cameo. This provides a moderately neutral point of view for the events in the novels. The choice of Aaron Burr as the focus for Vidals account of both the Age of Jackson and the Revolution and early republic was inspired. Of the major figures in our nations founding, he is both the most reviled and the least deified. The other founders have largely been reduced to statues. We tend to view Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Monroe, Hamilton, Randolph, Marshall, and the others more as figures in a diorama than as historical figures who were members of factions and parties or creatures of flesh and blood. Vidal uses Burr as a way to get back to the Founders before they had become statues. Burr treats many of our most revered figures as either Buffoons or villains. If you have read a great deal of history dealing with the per iod, nearly everything that Burr recounts will be recognized as accurate, such as George Washingtons stunning aloofness and his rather massive rear end (according to contemporaries its magnitude has been muted in the paintings made from life). I have always regarded Washington as overrated both as a president (his major achievement is that he declined to be named emperor) and a field general, so Burrs diatribes against Washington I found delightful. I also have found Jefferson to be one of if not the most perplexing figures in American history, filled with both marvelous and horrifying opinions on a host of subjects. And a paradox if ever there was one. Along with Madison, whom he inspired, Jefferson theoretically did as much for civil rights as any pers on in American history, yet as Vidal so ably displays, he constantly as president sought to abrogate the civil rights of others. And no president in U. S. history, not even Bush or Nixon or Lincoln (when he suspended habeas corpus), was more the enemy of the judiciary than Jefferson. Indeed, the book shows admirably the great struggle between Jefferson and Marshall, easily one of the most important fights in American history. Thankfully Marshall beat Jefferson at nearly every point, permanently establishing an independent judiciary and making it separate from both the legislative and executive branches (Jefferson sought to make it deeply subservient to both). (In this regard, let me recommend a nice book detailing the struggles between Jefferson and Marshall, John F. Simons What Kind of Nation: Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and the Epic Struggle to Create a United States. I honestly believe that Marshall did as much to create the United States as we know it as did Madison or Lincoln. I dont always agree with the decisions of the courts, especially the current ultra-rightwing Supreme Court, but I nonetheless delighted that the court system exists independently of political control by the president or the congress.) This novel did a better job of making the political struggles of the period come alive better than any of the history books on the period that I have read. I have read many accounts of the Age of Federalism and the emergence of the Republican party (interestingly, the Federalists later
  3. 3. became the Whigs and after that the present Republican party, while the Republicans under Jackson and Van Buren became the Democratic party, which is why Jefferson is often considered the founder of the Democratic party), but the issues have never been made so clear to me before. Vidal is also able to bring alive the struggle between personalities. He is also able to bring home how different these men were from us today. Though Jefferson is thought of as the great defender of democracy against Adams and Hamilton, who were the defenders of a privileged elite (though Adams was terrified of economic elites and was convinced that the greatest danger to the country lay with hereditary wealth, which is why he, along with the other Founders, was strongly in favor of very large estate taxes, so that great fortunes could not be passed along from one generation to another), he believed in slavery (though he thought it evil and had vague hopes that it would end someday) and did not believe in extending the vote beyond landowners or to women. It is also very difficult to map the Founders on todays understanding of liberal and conservative. Jefferson is considered a liberal and Adams a conservative, but Adams had a wealth of political opinions that make him sound like sound like a socialist while Jefferson thought that an empowered central government, seen today by liberals as crucial to social and economic justice, was inherently evil. Hamilton, considered one of the most conservative political figures in American history, on the other hand, believed in a powerful federal government. The point is, if you are either a conservative or a liberal, you can find points of agreement or disagreement with any of the Founders. Conservatives can even find much to admire in someone as liberal as Benjamin Franklin. I do not think that reading Gore Vidal can replace the reading of history. But there is much to be said for good fictional accounts. BURR does not precisely represent Vidals own political views. If you have read his es says or seen him interviewed on television, you probably know that he is an unrepentant liberal Democrat. But he is not doctrinaire. Most of the New Dealers were passionate fans of Andrew Jackson (largely due to Arthur Schlesinger Jr.s highly influential THE AGE OF JACKSON, in which Jackson comes across like an antebellum FDR). Vidal isnt nearly so much of a fan of Jackson. And as he points out in the novels postscript, he like Jefferson rather more than Burr does. This is what a good novelist can do: create characters that possess opinions that are not consistent with ones own. Charles Schuyler is not a time-traveling Gore Vidal. I have read both Gore Vidals LINCOLN and Doris Kearns Goodwins TEAM OF RIVALS, and I must confess that I took more away from Vidals book than from Goodwins (they are absolutely not in historical conflict with one another, but Vidals was written well before hers and showed brilliantly how Lincoln employed the team of rivals concept before she popularized the expression). Let me add here how impressive Vidals knowledge of history is. He has clearly and obviously read deeply in American history. I have now read the first two books in the Narrative of Empire sequence, though not in chronological order. I plan on starting off the New Year by
  4. 4. reading the other five books in the series. I hope I enjoy them as much and learn as much as I have from the first two. For More 5 Star Customer Reviews and Lowest Price: Burr by Gore Vidal - 5 Star Customer Reviews and Lowest Price!