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Burr

(Narratives of Empire #1)

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  8,729 ratings  ·  666 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
Paperback, 430 pages
Published February 15th 2000 by Vintage (first published 1973)
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Mike I don't want to choose sides based on a novel. However, Ron Chernow's A. Hamilton biography has some interesting comments about Burr. "It is puzzling …moreI don't want to choose sides based on a novel. However, Ron Chernow's A. Hamilton biography has some interesting comments about Burr. "It is puzzling that Aaron Burr is sometimes classified among the founding fathers. Washington, Jefferson...Adams...and Hamilton all left behind papers that run to dozens of thick volumes, packed with profound ruminations. They fought for high ideals. By contrast, Burr's editors have been able to eke out just two volumes of his letters, many full of gossip...He produced no major papers on policy matters, constitutional issues, or government instititions. Where Hamilton was often more interested in policy than politics, Burr seemed interested only in politics." (p. 192) And, there is more. Certainly, Hamilton is the more commanding figure whatever position you take on their politics. Thanks for the question. You have a more erudite group of friends than I. Few of my friends could proffer an opinion on either figure. I really enjoyed the novel though it took me forever to read given all my fact checking as I read.(less)
Susie Yes, I do. I also am having a problem with his opinion about "The Father of Our Country" Perhaps I have just not read a dissenting opinion of him, are…moreYes, I do. I also am having a problem with his opinion about "The Father of Our Country" Perhaps I have just not read a dissenting opinion of him, are there others who felt that way?(less)

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Jeffrey Keeten
”In the half-light of the cemetery, Burr did resemble the devil--assuming that the devil is no more than five foot six (an inch shorter than I), slender, with tiny feet (hooves?), high forehead (in the fading light I imagine vestigial horns), bald in front with hair piled high on his head, powdered absently in the old style, and held in place with a shell comb. Behind him is a monument to the man he murdered.”

 photo Aaron20Burr_zpsi4qwwjhl.jpg
Aaron Burr

Aaron Burr is, without a doubt, one of the most fascinating figures in Am
...more
Howard
I once read that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), the erstwhile presidential candidate, said that once upon a time she had been a Democrat, even working for the election of Jimmy Carter. However, while riding on a train one day, she experienced a political conversion while reading Gore Vidal’s novel, "Burr."

According to Rep. Bachmann, she became so upset with the way Vidal depicted our Founding Fathers – mocking them, she said – that she dropped the book onto her lap and said to herself, “I must b
...more
Paul Bryant
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels, abandoned
- Oh, Gore Vidal? I thought he was a hairdresser.

- No, that's Vidal Sassoon.

- That sounds wrong. Vidal Sassoon was a poet. I think he drove an ambulance and collected arms and legs.

- You're thinking of Siegfried Sassoon. Actually, I may have mixed him up with Wagner. Didn't he marry someone called Siegfried? Is that a woman's name in Germany? Doesn't sound like one.

- Oh yes, I remember now, Wagner was one of the top Nazis. He was the guy who parachuted into England to assassinate Churchill but
...more
Bill
May 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
'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
Dan
Dec 21, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed 'Julian' which was written by Vidal about the most consequential of the last Roman emperors. I wholeheartedly loved Vidal’s non-fiction compilation 'Essays on America' that won the Pulitzer and displayed the wit and precision of arguably the best essayist of our modern era. However I did not love 'Burr' the novel nearly as much.

'Burr', published in 1973, was a very popular historical fictional novel. Aaron Burr, the central character, was a minor revolutionary hero, first rate politic
...more
Cinda
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's the first novel I've read by Gore Vidal; an enthralling alternative view for Hamilton fans. History is truly a network of stories told from different points of view. Great fun! ...more
Ned
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh my, this was brilliant and entertaining. I needed to know about Aaron Burr and the history of our nation, and this was a riveting expose of the people, the petty politics, the smells and sins of our nation’s creators. It was also my first by Vidal, and will read many more if I have that much time. The plot was of the type that works well for me, a young man on a mysterious journey to uncover the enigmatic (and magnetic) statesman who was nearly president. Burr’s intellect and talent for gover ...more
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
Elizabeth (Alaska)
What I knew about Aaron Burr was that in a duel he shot and killed Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury and pictured on the $10 bill. That is a pitiful amount of knowledge and if I had ever been told more about Burr, it is in that part of the brain marked "irretrievable." For pete's sake, Elizabeth, Burr was Vice President of the United States. Further, the electoral votes in the 1800 election were tied between Jefferson and Burr and the election was decided by the House of Repres ...more
Christopher Saunders
In the first of his “Narratives of Empire” novels, Gore Vidal tackles Aaron Burr, the disgraced Vice President remembered for killing Alexander Hamilton and plotting to sever the western United States into an independent kingdom. He frames Burr’s story through a hoary narrative conceit, with hack journalist Charlie Schuyler (not, Vidal assures us, of the Hamilton-related Schuylers) befriending an antiquated Burr in 1830s New York, hoping to coax from him his life story. Namely, whether or not he ...more
Jonfaith
Dec 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
DeB MaRtEnS
Another found, another to read again. At twenty-one, I would have been spellbound by the drama surrounding Burr, and romanticized the era, being Canadian. Now with greater background and considerably more years beneath me, Burr by Gore Vidal would be a much different experience.
Joe Kraus
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Gore Vidal has long been a “name” whose work I didn’t really know. He seemed almost more famous for being famous than for any particular thing he’d written. So, when this one cropped up on sale, I figured I’d give it a shot.

As a concept, I love this book. A young man and partisan of Aaron Burr is hired to write a scandalous hit-job on Martin Van Buren by claiming that the Presidential candidate is actually the son of the disgraced old man. The result is a novel told back-and-forth between a pres
...more
Michael
A great read for rendering a satirical and jaundiced view of the Founding Fathers, with a focus on Washington, Hamilton, and Jefferson. Vidal portrays Burr in third person from the perspective of an invented biographer interviewing his subject as an old man in the 1830's while inserting many long sections in first person from fictional memoirs. We get a nice account of Burr's role in Benedict Arnold's heroic Revolutionary War assault on Quebec City and fuel for a cynical vision of Washington as ...more
Christopher Carbone
Apr 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Sam
Jul 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Lynn
Sep 15, 2020 marked it as didn-t-finish  ·  review of another edition
So boring it puts me to sleep every time I try to read it. I’m done.
Perry Whitford
May 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.

Who better than to re-tell history with Burr as the hero but Gore Vidal?

This is the fifth of the seven Narratives of Empire series that I have read and the first in the series chronologica
...more
Marin
Jan 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
John Hatley
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good "historical novel" (fiction based on fact) about a less-known figure in American history. From 1801 to 1805, Aaron Burr was Thomas Jefferson's vice-president. Burr is one of a series of novels written by Gore Vidal with a background in American history. ...more
Tracie
Apr 10, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Henry
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Did you know that George Washington lost most of his battles as a General...or that he had a big butt? These background asides make Vidal's "Burr" a fascinating read. Recommended! ...more
Larry Bassett
I am slightly surprised to find how long it took me to actually get through this audible book which I supplemented by also following along with the Kindle version. I started out thinking this Book was going to be a superb five star effort but as it went on and on I began to think it was of a somewhat repetitious three star overstatement. Thus I come to the four-star conclusion at the top of the page!

I have left some notes and comments that predominate in the first half of the book. The author po
...more
Andrewh
Mar 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Rosina Lippi
Jan 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vidal (one of the great minds of our age) is a master of historical fiction. This novel brings the early 19th century to life, and provides a sober yet amusing perspective on the famous and the modest alike.

Burr was not an especially nice person, but he had the charm that can ease a meglomaniac's way. Really this novel is worth studying if you're writing yourself, for Vidal's truly unique style and his unparalleled under-painting.
...more
Gbug
I wish I liked this more. I loved Gore Vidal's Lincoln. This is not as compelling a subject. It is still not clear to me what caused the duel with Hamilton. Gossip? What is clear politics today is not different from that of founding fathers. News and fake news just travel faster. ...more
Nooilforpacifists
Apr 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of the most enjoyable historical novels ever written. None of his other works, especially his "American series" (1876, Lincoln, etc.) measure up. Its genius is a historical inversion: the hero: Aaron Burr; the villain: Thomas Jefferson. Most who didn't go to the University of Virginia should be honest enough to admit that Vidal has caught the dark side of Jefferson--the starry-eyed philosophy that contrasted with the ruthless conduct of his politics. And, Vidal devises a plausible reason for ...more
Jeffrey
Jun 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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! ...more
Quo
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Readers interested in the American Revolution &/or the Hamilton/Burr controversy...
Near the beginning of Burr by Gore Vidal, Aaron Burr is narrating his life & times to Charles Schuyler & suggests that he "has a lingering desire to tell the true story of the Revolution before it is too late." Beyond that & while speaking of himself, Burr declares: "he is a labyrinth". Most are familiar with "The Duel" that had Aaron Burr strike down Alexander Hamilton with whom he'd had a long-running feud, establishing Burr as an arch-villain within the shadows of American history but the est ...more
Jenni V.
Jan 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was highly recommended by my dad as something he's read "cover to cover multiple times". So I went into it both looking forward to reading the book and also getting to see another side of my dad. He's passed books on to me before but there's something special about reading a book that someone you love loves and imagining their take on it and what exactly makes them react so strongly to it.

Okay, putting my psychology degree away for the rest of the review before I get completely off tra
...more
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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

Other books in the series

Narratives of Empire (7 books)
  • Lincoln
  • 1876
  • Empire
  • Hollywood
  • Washington, D.C.
  • The Golden Age

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