Everyone seems to have their favorite Vidal novel and here at The Literate Man (TLM) we’re Burr diehards. And how could you not be intrigued by Aaron Burr’s story or at least Vidal’s interpretation and telling of it?
Most people today simply know Burr as the man who shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in an 1804 duel. Which is true. But commonly accepted history has made Hamilton a martyr and Burr little more than a strange curiosity. In Burr, Vidal has given the man an historical defense.
And what a treasure trove to draw from. Burr seems to be personally involved in all the most important historical events of his lifetime. Vidal takes us from his days as a colonel in the Revolutionary War, the founding of what would become JP Morgan Chase, his electoral tie with Thomas Jefferson in the 1800 presidential contest, allegations that he and Andrew Jackson hatched a scheme to conquer Mexico and appoint himself emperor, and ultimately the killing of his former best friend, Hamilton, in a gun fight in New Jersey.
You simply couldn’t make this stuff up. And whether or not Vidal’s interpretations would hold up under absolute historical scrutiny, we’ll probably never know. But if you’re looking for an enthralling read Burr hits the mark by any measure of examination.