Burr
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Burr (Narratives of Empire #1)

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  4,041 ratings  ·  266 reviews
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 observ...more
Hardcover, 697 pages
Published February 24th 1998 by Modern Library (first published January 1st 1973)
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Adam
I knew next to nothing about US history when I began reading Gore Vidal's Burr. So, I was, and still am, in no position to assess the historical accuracy of the numerous events recorded in his fictional biography of Colonel Aaron Burr (1756-1836).

During the American Revolutionary War, Aaron Burr was involved in an expedition to attack the British forces in Quebec. Although this was not a success, it was during this campaign that Burr became known a military hero. He rubbed shoulders with George...more
Bill
'Burr' is the lead novel in Gore Vidal's seven-book series on U.S. history. It's not the first book he wrote in the series, but in terms of historical chronology, everything begins right here. If you've never read Vidal, there are other places you might want to begin ('Julian' is a marvelous novel, as is 'Messiah.' You can't really go wrong with Gore.) But if you're a fan of history and turned off by textbook drudgery (and occasional misinformation), 'Burr' opens one writer's look at American hi...more
Jonfaith
Dec 23, 2012 Jonfaith rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jonfaith by: Jeffrey Keeten
"Although Americans justify their self-interest in moral terms, their true interest is never itself moral. Yet, paradoxically, only Americans - a few, that is- ever try to be moral in politics."
-- Gore Vidal

Vidal takes full responsibility for his perjury. Okay he only admits to errors and anachronisms, but sides himself with Richard Nixon in the process. Burr is a wonderful tale, finding delight in skewering the reputations of the Founding Fathers and all the hypocrisy which didn't make its way...more
Sam
Re-reading actually. I loved this tale of our hapless 2nd Vice President so much I named my youngest son after him. I love Gore Vidal's writing and have read so many of his wonderful historical novels, bursting with history and personality. Possibly my all time favorite writer, though he has only written one scifi story.

I admire Aaron Burr more and more as I see how the insanity that is American politics continues to appall and astound. But it reminds me also of just how flawed and human were ou...more
Christopher Carbone
Apr 14, 2009 Christopher Carbone rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: anyone who likes the villian
There has been no greater shadow in American History, no greater enigma than the US's 3rd Vice President, almost President, and near King of Louisiana, Aaron Burr. Mostly known for killing Fmr. Treasury Secretary and opposition party leader, Alexander Hamilton, Burr is also known, less so, for invading Louisiana shortly after it was purchased by the US, getting caught, tried for treason and beating every charge easily.

This ficticious look at Burr's history is a dramatic telling of the absurdity...more
Perry Whitford
Aaron Burr is perhaps the most contentious of all American politicians. A contemporary of the founding fathers and a mover and shaker in the first years of the union, his name is now a byword for betrayal and devilry due to killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel and being brought to trial for suspected treason by Jefferson. Who better than to re-tell history with Burr as the hero this time but Gore Vidal?

This is the fifth of the seven Narratives of Empire series that I have read and the first in...more
Andrewh
This is the first of Vidal's Narratives of Empire (though the second one he wrote in the series) and is the most enjoyable and scurrilous of all (though I've not yet read the follow-up 1876). Aaron Burr was a war hero, a Vice-President, and, infamously, killed Hamilton in a duel. He is here presented as an irresistible rogue, a gambler, brilliant lawyer, ladies man, and military genius, who was tried for treason for allegedly wanting to split off the Western states from the Union. All this is bu...more
Jeffrey
Vidal. That name says it all. Hey, I'm a poet? Geesssh! I loved him years ago when I read him. Think my father was reading this one, and like a lot of my early picks, I read it too. Also, read lots of my sisters books. They were a great help in getting my love for books going. But back to the books, the man . . . Want to learn about history in an interesting way? Read him!
Marin
I'm trying. I really am. My brother and SIL really loved this book, but I'm finding it irritating.

In all fairness, I'm stuck about 50 pages in and reluctant to continue.

I don't like any of the characters, and when that's the case, it's hard for me to like a book (or movie or play). I have to have someone to root for. The clerk/narrator is stupid and superfluous. Everybody is smug and droll to the point of Oscar Wilde.

Now, there are memoir portions of the book in which Aaron Burr relates, via let...more
Monica
I am not a fan of US colonial history, but I enjoyed this book. Vidal makes these historical figures very human and doesn't mind taking a jab or two at them. He also made me very sympathetic toward Aaron Burr and less so toward Thomas Jefferson. This is a first in his series of historical fiction focusing on the US that goes up to the 20th century. I enjoy it so much I periodically re-read it and took it with me to Mexico City when I was there doing research.
Andrew
430 concise pages. Aaron Burr was vilified by Thomas Jefferson but this book tells us the story of the American revolution and early politics all the way to Martin Van Buren's presidency. Burr was critical of Washington and Jefferson and wasn't afraid to stand up for the division of power in government. It is interesting how much history is covered in one man's life. Vidal's handling is even handed and thorough.
Scott
I am guessing that Vidal wanted to do some sort of send up of our normally romantic images of the Founding Fathers and chose the least sympathetic of them with which to do it. And then achieved his goal.

My favourite moment in the novel occurs when Burr has gone for dinner to Monticello, and he and Jefferson are walking afterwards. Burr sees a young child, obviously Jefferson's grandson, precariously playing in a tree and says, "Your grandson is about to fall." At which Jefferson blushes and says...more
Mark
The Revolutionary War officially ended in 1783. Revisionism and mythologizing about it began practically the next day. Some stories are so deeply embedded into our national subconsciousness that any attempt at telling a "true" version is likely to be met with utter disbelief if not derision.

Everyone believes they know the story of Aaron Burr. What they know basically are three things: one, he was Thomas Jefferson's first term vice president; two, while VP he challenged Alexander Hamilton to a du...more
Steve
Vidal proves himself once more a true master of historical narrative with this illuminating and gripping portrayal of the Founding Fathers of the American nation. Among this impressive cast of historical heavyweights, the author sets out to provide a compelling portrait of their contemporary, Aaron Burr, whose name has become synonymous with treason and murder. While Vidal treats his central character with a more balanced portrayal of a man of great presence and courage, he expertly provides a '...more
Tracie
I started to re-read Lincoln, then Sarah pointed out that Burr is actually the first book in the American Chronicle series, and it makes sense to read them in order, so let's read this instead.

I didn't like this anywhere near as much as I liked Lincoln, but it's still enjoyable, and Burr's a great character. But that's part of the problem, he seemed the whole time a lot more like a character in a novel to me than an actual historical figure. The fictional first person narrator annoyed me a lot,...more
Seth McGaw
Actually more like 4 1/2 stars... certainly one of the most vivid depictions of early-19th century New York and Washington societies that I've had the opportunity to read. Apparently based on actual facts, characters, and occurrences, Vidal goes about setting the record straight in Aaron Burr's own (supposed) words with this historical fiction based during the presidential election of 1836, and told in historical snippets ranging from the early years of the American Revolution until Burr's trial...more
Stacia
I'm not very far into this dense work of fiction, but it's my first Vidal novel and I am FLOORED by his style. It's not at all what I expected. Five or ten years ago it would have sickened me to read it because his writing is so damn good, but I'm over my own artistic hangups now and can enjoy it.

=====
Done now. Although I got a tad bored at times (mainly due to my own ignorance of America's history), I cannot get over how much I loved this book. When I describe it to people who've never heard o...more
Sarah
Stephen refused my request for "Gods and Generals" or "Confederates in the Attic". Instead he bought me Gore Vidal's Burr. He's been pestering me to read Vidal for ages. It was his gift card so I really couldn't argue too much. I believe he was getting tired of my constant chatter of late regarding the civil war. After being forced to sit through the movie Gettysburg he feared if left to my own devices and bolstered by new civil war reading material I'd soon force him to watch Cold Mountain, Gon...more
Jonathan
If you want to read about American history but don't want to read non-fiction then read this series of books, 'Narratives of Empire'. This is the first, deals with the War of Independence and the first 40 years of the 19th Century, through the experiences of Colonel Aaron Burr, one time Vice-President who took part in a duel and fatally wounded his opponent during his term in office, and was later accused of treason. Vidal always writes entertainingly, full of sly humour and often provocative op...more
Mike
This is the first book in Gore Vidal's American Chronicle series. I read the entire series a few years ago and really enjoyed it. However, Burr was my favorite in the series so I decided to re-read it. It follows Charles Schuyler who is a young author trying to write Aaron Burr's memoirs. (Schuyler or his descendents appear in every one of the American Chronicle books.)

Vidal has a gift for bringing boring dead guys to life. Vidal's Burr is a fascinating character and his interpretation of our na...more
Walter
Who knew that Aaron Burr had such an interesting life? Enjoyable historical accounts of the Founders from the cynical perspective of an aging Burr. But how accurate are they? The afterward claims that people were almost always in the places that the author placed them and that many conversations were excerpted from letters. This made me feel much better about the book but it's hard not to read it skeptically - perhaps because the tone of the book had been so skeptical. The last third drags a bit...more
Steph
Mr. Vidal could write the phone book and make it interesting.

I am constantly amazed by Gore Vidal's ability to make history come alive in a way I have never experienced. He shows us a totally different side of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington diametrically opposed to what was taught in public schools. The mark of a true writer, I believe, is someone who can take an opposing viewpoint and make a case for it. I was, however, happy to find out that Mr. Vidal was a fan of Thomas Jefferson even...more
Jennifer
Vidal's fictional Aaron Burr presents himself and his contemporaries, warts and all. He grew on me. But it took some time to get past his bitterness and appreciate his candor ("Paris reminded me of Albany before the revolution..."); complexity (He didn't hate Alexander Hamilton as much as he hated Thomas Jefferson.); and heart of gold (he plays cupid for James and Dolly Madison.). It also took me awhile to get used to the double-narration. Book's best moment: Burr reenacts, in pantomime, the due...more
Nancy
Gore’s novel begins with Aaron Burr as an old man best remembered as the man who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Wishing to clear his reputation, he recounts his life story to his law clerk, Charlie Schuyler, who also serves as the book’s narrator. I remember Gore’s book as an excellent account of history during the American Revolution and the years that followed, but also dry in places that I was tempted to skip over.
John Jarrold
My favourite novel. Aaron Burr was Thomas Jefferson's vice-president from 1800, but was accused of treason by Jefferson (a favourite tactic when faced with anyone he viewed as a threat - or anyone who disagreed with him). This book travels from the beginning of the War of Independence through to the 1830s, and gives a great view of the early Republic and its movers and shakers. Witty, intelligent and deeply involving.
Hock Tjoa
It was much easier to read this than a lot of biographies of the founding fathers. Thomas Jefferson comes across as the tricky politician that he probably was as did Hamilton as the uptight and conflicted personality who deserved better. Madison seemed as lifeless as he probably was even though his contribution in the debates on the constitution seems to have been truly epic. Epic but bloodless.
Lindz
I am not sure whether to give this book 3 or 4 stars. I really really liked it. Though it took me ages to read. In fact, I think Burr was my first introduction to early American history. I liked how Washington and Jefferson weren't the perfect heroes I had vaguely heard about. Non of Vidal's characters are perfect, and it is what makes them human.
Ani
Excellent prose, incredibly live characters and all this is actually history. Thoroughly researched and masterfully done book. Highly recommend! There are situations and passages in the book, you are going to remember for a long time, Funny, entertaining and educational. Doe's not happen a lot in the same book.
Forrest
Took the first 100 pages or so to get into, but I liked it. I had some trouble figuring out exactly the type of relationship developing between Schuyler and Burr, but the actual memoirs themselves kept me interested until it cleared up later on. Good stuff, though.
Max
Vidal has such a pursuasive, definitive voice that it becomes difficult to view his characters through any other prism but his. His Linoln, in particular, is such a towering personality that for a long time I had trouble thinking about Lincoln any other way.
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5657
Eugene Luther Gore Vidal was an American writer known for his essays, novels, screenplays, and Broadway plays. He was also known for his patrician manner, Transatlantic accent, and witty aphorisms. Vidal came from a distinguished political lineage; his grandfather was the senator Thomas Gore, and he later became a relation (through marriage) to Jacqueline Kennedy.

Vidal ran for political office twi...more
More about Gore Vidal...
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“The public is always relieved to find that once the chief officers of state are elected they do not sincerely want change.” 4 likes
“Although Americans justify their self-interest in moral terms, their true interest is never itself moral.” 3 likes
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