Author: Selden Edwards
Title: The Little Book
Publication Info: Penguin Audio (2008), Edition: Unabridged, Audio CD
Wheeler Burden is a lot of things:
- son of a revered athlete and war hero
- a successful – if not ambitious – high school and college baseball pitcher
- a rock & roll superstar
- heir to a mentor’s collection of writings about fin-de-siecle Vienna which he publishes into a book
- a time traveler
I do love a time travel adventure and this is a pretty good one as the protagonist Burden suddenly arrives in Vienna in 1898. Armed with the knowledge provided by his teacher “the venerable Haze” he successfully navigates a time half-a-century before his birth and becomes acquainted with the intellectual socialites of the time. More surprisingly he meets quite a few people he already knows. The novel jumps between Burden’s story in Vienna and biographical stories of three generations of the Burden family. Along the way, Sigmund Freud, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler and Buddy Holly among others play a part.
It’s not a perfect book as Edwards’ dialogue and characterization is kind of weak, and there’s no end to the superlatives he lays on the characters we’re supposed to like. But there’s enough of a cracking adventure to make it worth a read. File it under intellectual brain candy.
Recommended books: To Say Nothing of the Dog; or, How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last by Connie Willis, Time and Again by Jack Finney, and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Also reminiscent of John Irving’s early works because of the New England boarding school and Vienna connections. Said to be inspired by Fin-de-Siecle by Carl Schorske.