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January 1, 2007

Book Short: Octavian Nothing

I am a busy guy. Not bragging here - believe me... just telling it like it is. I work full time. I'm very happily married. I have three wonderful kids. Overall, we are all pretty darn busy here at the Bartel household - and I'm not any exception. I also enjoy reading - however these past years I've noticed that reading for me goes rather slowly.

I finished Undaunted Courage in November, for example, but I started it in May. I find that reading before bed, for example, I maybe get five or ten pages in, if I'm lucky, before I nod off. A 500 pager goes rather slowly at that pace. (Speaking of Undaunted Courage, I need to post a book short on it as well - it too was an excellent read).

Anyway, since I'm such a slow reader given my life currently, I was astounded by how quickly I roared through The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing.

I caught a review for it in a magazine or newspaper - a short, less-than-50-words type blurb that compelled me to order it up. Something like this from the Wall Street Journal:

It is the eve of Revolution in Boston, where Octavian and his beautiful African mother live in circumstances of great elegance and high-mindedness. Outdoors, patriots are shouting "Liberty and Property!" while within the walls of the curious Novanglian College of Lucidity a group of rational philosophers -- so rational that ...

You get the idea. In any case, this book - for me - was a riveting piece of fiction. Set in Revolution-era Boston, the book is written in 18th century style and narrated from Octavian's point of view. The language is colorful - and while it took me a while, I finally settled in and got used to the language.

Octavian and his mother are subjects of an odd psycological and sociological experiment for a group of elitist and purported intellectuals. As the story passes, Octavian ages and his circumstances change drastically. Through its full course, the book explores concepts of slavery, free will, racism, human rights, war, inner peace, self-perception and more.

Subtitled "Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party" I was glad to read that author M.T. Anderson plans at least a second volume where we should learn more about Octavian. I look forward to it, and recommend this book as a slightly deep, thought provoking, and very enjoyable read.

Posted by gcrgcr at January 1, 2007 4:14 PM

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