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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Sunday, May 20, 2018

...'then they took New York!'

The Judge Hunter     
by Christopher Buckley


Another brilliant parody of history depicted by Christopher Buckley. This expose, the story of Stuvyesant and the English attainment of New York, within the context of the Dutch-English casts our eyes back in a refreshingly new way.
Samuel Pepys, his position and his diaries are the hook to begin with. His brother-in-law gives us the subtext. Baltasar “Balty” St. Michel is an annoying nincompoop whom Pepys manages to have dispatched to the new world to track down the judges who'd sentenced Charles 1. Charles II is still determined to see them pay.
To cut a funny story short Balty, fumbling in the best traditions of '1066 and all that', or a Mel Brooksian movie at the very least, manages to shape history, along with the taciturn spy Huncks, whom one can't help but feel sorry for, being saddled with this Rowan Atikinson type figure. The commentary on the practices by the 'godly' is illuminating bringing to the fore the stringent effects of religious laws on communities. The treatment of both the Indians and other religious groups like the Quakers by these puritanical pilgrims shows the disconnect between faith and grace. There really is much than can be unpacked in Buckley's work. The casual introduction of famed figures is wonderful, with hilarious added touches that only a fictionalized account can allow. Hence Stuyvesant's Brazilian parrot, who makes a nicely framed presence on the book cover, offers us a question right from the get go, did we but know it.
Slickly written, a comic, yet true look at history through jaded and not so jaded eyes. Hidden away is at least one nod to the current political contretemps when Stuyvesant muses that they need a bigger wall to keep the English out and perhaps he can persuade Charles II to build it.
Read the who's who at the end to see well known descendants of the various figures portrayed. Quite an eye opener.
I loved every minute of this witty foray into the early times of the 17th century New World.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

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