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Description - Burr by Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal's classic novel of Aaron Burr - the man who shot Alexander Hamilton. 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?

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780349105314
ISBN-10: 0349105316
Format: Paperback
(199mm x 134mm x 33mm)
Pages: 512
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 2-Apr-1994
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - Burr by Gore Vidal

UK Kirkus Review » The best of Vidal's 'history of the USA', this novel is the story of the remarkable War of Independence hero, who tried to annex Mexico, killed a rival in a duel and tied for the presidency with Thomas Jefferson. This is good history disguised as a rollicking read. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Writing in The New York Review of Books recently, Gore Vidal wondered why so "valuable a genre" as the historical novel should be disdained by "our solemn writers," when "what happened last summer at Rutgers," if presented in a dull novel under the rubric of "realism," should be thought superior. These remarks, as it turns out, appear to have been intended as a prelude to a recreation of his own: the career of Aaron Burr, vice-president under Jefferson, assailant of Hamilton in a famous duel on Weehawk Heights, alleged arch-conspirator in a plot to set up a kingdom somewhere in Mexico. Burr is a dark figure, a prey of romanticists. Vidal, however, fleshes him in fine classical fettle, the full flower of 18th-century rationalism sprouting in his head. It is a clever book, the elegant conception of a spirited professional. But perhaps it does answer the question Vidal poses to the questioner's disadvantage. For while the intricacies of plot, the political climate, the social pace and prejudices of the day are admirably drawn, never for a moment does the reader forget that he is in the presence of, after all, an entertaining invention. That "summer at Rutgers," on the other hand, has the grain of truth that comes from a writer's experience. It may bore us, but it compels belief. Burr does not. Then, too, Vidal uses one of the oldest of gambits, a device he deplores in other novelists, "the sort of storytelling that propels the hero from one person to the next person, asking questions". Interspersed between sections of the memoirs of Burr is the long chronicle of a reporter in pursuit of the truth about the Colonel during the last years of the latter's life. Burr has pointed speeches lamenting the lack of "civilization on this God-forsaken continent." "Between the dishonest canting of Jefferson: and the poisonous egotism of Hamilton, this state has been no good from the beginning." These add a certain weight and irony to the novel, considering our mood of national discontent and a troubled bicentennial looming in the wings. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal was at the centre of literary and intellectual life for half a century and wrote 'The Narratives of a Golden Age' series as well as countless bestsellers. He died on 31st July 2012.

Books By Gore Vidal

America First! by Gore Vidal
Paperback, October 2016
Thieves Fall Out by Gore Vidal
Paperback, April 2016
Buckley vs. Vidal by Gore Vidal
Paperback / softback, August 2015
Selected Speeches and Writings by Gore Vidal
Paperback / softback, October 2014