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With the centennial year of the United States as the target of this historical novel, Gore Vidal again mounts a glorious expedition into that grimy and intricate activity called politics. And this is politics as it ought to be: gossip, corruption, money, dinner parties, more corruption, and all the tacky panoply of power. Into the rarefied atmosphere of a world where money has begun to talk very loudly ? usually through the mouths of people called Astor ? step Charles Schuyler and his daughter Emma. Charlie is the unacknowledged bastard son of Aaron Burr; Emma is rather beautiful; and both think it is prudent to return from penury in Europe and secure a fortuitous marriage for Emma. But America is no longer a young republic; it's a fledgling international superpower with its attendant seedy administration, dubious election campaigns, snobbery, 'popped corn', 'speaking tubes' and 'perpendicular railways' (lifts). It's a world that will welcome into its social and political bosom these two attractive exotics with the right names. And it's a world whose every political peccadillo, social slip-up and irresistible intrigue is recorded in this, the journal of Charlie Schuyler.

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