Burst and Bull: A Conspiracy of Letters

January 31st, 2006

I have a confession to make, it’s a bit out of fashion, but I adore epistolary novels. Especially ones with unreliable principles. Having been on something of a tear plowing through 4 (unspeakable) paperbacks in 3 days, I finally smacked up against Burst and Bull’s Freedom and Necessity, which has slowed me down considerably.

Published in 1997, I’m not sure how I’ve missed it to date. Finally Burst turns his considerable talent for sly mimicry to a worthy task (I’m not a fan of Dumas, sue me), and Bull’s wonderful characters escape the rather dead end genre of musicians and fairies (ditto de Lint).

Some folks might be turned off by the extensive expositions of Kant and Hegel (with a name like “Freedom and Necessity” Hegel not to mention Engels are something of a given), but “Sophie’s World” this is not, I promise there is nearly no educational value in the philosophical ponderings, just beautiful words, and plot twists.

Spice with subtle anachronisms (ala Stephenson), Chartist heroes, and one of the most interesting, fertile settings (19th century Europe), and for some odd tastes, you’ve got a winner. Will remind many folks of JSAMN (F&N was published 7 years earlier, and is about 60% the length, and 10% the hype), I’d rather suggest Hobsbawn’s work on long century as a companion piece.

I’m about half way done (when the urge to write about a book generally strikes me), and so could be let down horribly by the ending, but I doubt it.

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