Carl's Reviews > The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol I: The Pox Party

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nati... by M.T. Anderson
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M_50x66
's review
May 28, 11

bookshelves: american, literature, historical-fiction, 21st-century-fiction
Read from May 27 to 28, 2011

A far more aggressive, myth-annihilating, literarily momentous novel than its Young Adult parentage prepared me for (Anderson is well-known and respected as a YA author, and this leads me to think that he deserves those accolades, especially for not dumbing-down complex topics). Shows you what stereotyping does....

Intensely moral and political, this often-brutal novel challenges some myths that Americans hold dear: the American Revolution was a noble venture, that capitalism is moral, and (perhaps most interestingly) that history tells a clear story.

It is unfortunate that so few high schoolers have enough ability to manage eighteenth-century syntax (which Anderson works hard to approximate) or enough content knowledge about the context to be able to appreciate fully the richness of the irony and characterization that is developed here. Maybe this could be a great first step for those readers. It's not a peaceful, reassuring, complacent novel; it is oddly life-affirming, though.

You know who would hate this? Sarah Palin. The forces of conservatism, initially promoted by the plot's engagement of the classics, become poisonously utilitarian in Anderson's depiction. I think a true libertarian and a true liberal might appreciate it, but the typical American conservative might find it propagandistically anti-American in the extreme, and would decry its presentation to anyone, let alone young people. It challenges you to reconsider your understanding of America's creation myth. We'll see!

Okay, so it's not perfect. Like any strongly didactic text, it suffers when it gets preachy. And there are some very slow parts. But that didn't really bother me in the overall scheme of things. I am happy to recommend this book -- and I hope it rouses you to anger at the injustices within.
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Reading Progress

05/27/2011 page 60
17.0%

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