download Pdf The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. I: The Pox Party By M.T. Anderson –

It Sounds Like A Fairy Tale He Is A Boy Dressed In Silks And White Wigs And Given The Finest Of Classical Educations Raised By A Group Of Rational Philosophers Known Only By Numbers, The Boy And His Mother A Princess In Exile From A Faraway Land Are The Only Persons In Their Household Assigned Names As The Boy S Regal Mother, Cassiopeia, Entertains The House Scholars With Her Beauty And Wit, Young Octavian Begins To Question The Purpose Behind His Guardians Fanatical Studies Only After He Dares To Open A Forbidden Door Does He Learn The Hideous Nature Of Their Experiments And His Own Chilling Role In Them Set Against The Disquiet Of Revolutionary Boston, M T Anderson S Extraordinary Novel Takes Place At A Time When American Patriots Rioted And Battled To Win Liberty While African Slaves Were Entreated To Risk Their Lives For A Freedom They Would Never Claim The First Of Two Parts, This Deeply Provocative Novel Reimagines The Past As An Eerie Place That Has Startling Resonance For Readers Today

10 thoughts on “The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. I: The Pox Party

  1. says:

    Friends, it would be difficult to overstate my vexation upon the finishing of this allegedly excellent tome In an effort to emulate Mr Sharp, I shall essay to enumerate the difficulties that beset me during those long days in which I did traverse the pages of the manuscript A My head ached in a most alarming fashion B A strange desire to hurl myself off a bridge, or some such other edifice of sufficient moment, possessed me I cannot in good conscience recommend this title, unless the potential reader be A rendered nearly insensate by ennui, B eager to witness the slaughter of hundreds of domestic beasts, or C in dire need of disabuse of the notion that the worship of profit above all else is one worth emulating.Begging your indulgence for an opinion contrary to the gentlemen and ladies who hand out plaudits for writings of this sort, I remain your humble servant, kmg365.

  2. says:

    I m rather surprised that The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing should be marketed to a young adult audience Surprised and a little bit saddened Saddened because I think the book deserves better and surprised for similar reasons Octavian Nothing deserves an audience built of those who are thoughtful, empathetic human beings And this is not the typical and immediate description by which one would first describe teenagers Certainly there are exceptions, but those are young adults whom we would consider to be exceptional Definitionally speaking at the least No, these two books deserve an audience of careful readers Of those who are not looking for titillation or something pop or hip These are books for those who enjoy to ferret out truth in its varied forms For those who would value a considered approach to the historically one sided consideration of the American Revolution and what that meant to those living in America when its outcome was still uncertain For those concerned with the nature and history of man These are books for readers, for those who take joy in the promise of the written page For that reason, to market these two wonderful books to a particular age caged demographic is a minor tragedy Tragic for the adult who will never chance to read it for fear of wasting time on some children s trifle and tragic for the young readers who will pick it up expecting the juvenile pleasures of Harry Potter or Twilight and then put it down again in disgust, only to retain the lifelong memory that Octavian Nothing was terribly dull simply because they did not yet apprehend the means by which one could ever actually appreciate Anderson s work here.Whether Octavian Nothing is for you is a good question I can t pretend to know you or your tastes But I can talk about the person I think would appreciate Octavian s journey and the telling of it.This person is concerned with the state of the human creature and has at least a rudimentary care for the lives and stories of people in circumstance wholly different from anything the reader has personally experienced This person enjoys verisimilitude in narrative voice and sees the merit in an 18th century scholar writing as would an 18th century scholar and a similarly situated soldier speaking as would such a soldier This person enjoys rediscovering well worn events from the fresh perspective of a vantage rarely before considered This person enjoys unveiling grand historical ironies and is all the same troubled by the hypocrisies that such ironies must make known This person likes to be challenged by their reading material.This is, I imagine, the person who would enjoy both volumes of the telling of Octavian Nothing s young life story This is, in fact, the kind of person that both my wife and I are, for we enjoyed Anderson s two volumes immensely.Octavian is a young black man, a slave, recounting his youth and the years leading up to the American Revolution He is, however, no slave of average experience He is the subject of scientific experimentation and lives a life of relative, though strange, privilege Still even as the Colonies are being haunted by questions of liberty and property, so too is Octavian likewise haunted though his concern is understandably much visceral and approaches the well worn concepts with a mournful grace that none of my American forefathers spent too great a time considering.Anderson s writing here is impressive He captures the voice of the era without flaw so far as I can tell his style is impeccable He uses journal entries, letters, and advertisements to convey his tale and this brings a sense of immediacy to his actors character and frame We come to know especially Octavian and his unique perspective on the world And as Anderson writes in the spirit of the times, his vocabulary is requisitely robust I m not certain I ve ever been so often at a loss as to a term s meaning as I was during the course of devouring these two volumes.I can see the style becoming cumbersome for some readers, but I found it charming There were moments in the second novel that my interest was less than stoked as description of military engagement does little to rivet my attentions but in all, I d say this was a superb work One that asks questions of philosophy and faith that merit consideration.

  3. says:

    Octavian Nothing is a slave boy owned by a group of rationalist philosophers living in Revolutionary War era Boston Slowly, we learn that Octavian s upbringing, characterized by a rigorous classical education and musical training in which he excels regular measurment of such bodily functions as his bowel movemements, are all part of a disturbing experiment to determine whether or not people of African descent are inferior to whites Octavian comes to realize this as well, and in the course of his relationship with an older fellow slave, begins to chafe under the bonds of his servitude, however humane it might appear on the surface With the revolutionary struggle against Britain about to explode, Octavian learns increasingly bitter lessons about the hypocrisy of those who take up arms in the name of liberty but continue to sanction the bondage of tens of thousands of their fellow countrymen The nerve wracking, cliffhanger ending will leave you clamoring for the publication of the second book in this two part series, which should be released in 2008 While the book is nominally written for a young adult audience, this is a serious book of ideas that should satisfy any adult reader It is written in an archaic, 18th century style and makes us of a number of innovative narrative techniques one section of the narrative is told completely through letters written back and forth between various characters in the story Such techniques could have easily damaged the cohesiveness of the book, but Anderson masterfully brings all of the elements of his story together The result is stunning Anyone interested in exploring ideas surrounding the contradictory relationship between freedom and private property, racism and the role of race in the Revolution, and the conflict bewteen extreme rationalism and human dignity should read this book So should everyone else for that matter.

  4. says:

    This book starts so simply yet bizarrely an African prince and his mother subjects of scientific experiments but treated very well as befitting their station It degenerates from there Octavian eventually experiences the worst there is to be a slave This book is a colonial American tale a slavery tale a revolutionary war tale all blended together I wasn t prepared for the cruelty.

  5. says:

    This review has been revised and can now be found at

  6. says:

    I finally finished this on audiobook I was wondering if I would have enjoyed this if I had read it, but I don t think I would have I think that it didn t help that this was an audiobook, and one of my complaints about the book is that it goes on and on incessantly about crap that doesn t really do anything for the plot or the enhancement of the characters And the over the top period language drove me crazy by the end I would have liked it better if all of the third person narration parts were omitted I have also been wondering about the classification of YA or teen books Does every book with a tween or teen protagonist automatically get designated as a YA book Although I wouldn t really recommend this to anyone, I especially would not recommend it to anyone 18 or under The beginning is soooo boring, I cannot imagine them sticking with it This really seems like a book that was written for adults that happens to have a teen protagonist A huge disappointment for me, considering all of the accolades and positive reviews that it has received I feel like I really missed something here.

  7. says:

    Winner of the 2006 National Book Award for Young People s LiteratureBoston Globe Horn Book Award 2007 2007 Printz HonorI read this book in early February of this year, but have been too timid to review it Now, with my review of The Obama Revolution by Alan Schaffer Kennedy being posted tomorrow, I thought it was a good time to throw my two cents into the dialogue of race and literature.The first volume of The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing is the story of a young boy in 1760s Boston He and his mother, who is a West African princess, live at the Novanglian College of Lucidity They are both treated as royalty, dressed in silks and taught Latin, Greek, music and mathematics Through Octavian s innocence, the reader is subjected to all manner of degrading and inhuman scientific inquiries, so that by the time the boy realizes he is merely a test subject, and a slave, the reader s soul has already begun to squirm.The tale moves through a Pox Party a sort of vaccination quarantine which results in the death of Octavian s mother Observant, naturally intelligent and well learned, Octavian cannot bear the circumstances which ensue He becomes mute, and escapes to join the army The last third of the book is told in the colonial colloquialisms of a fellow soldier writing home to his family.This novel is so dense, I very much agree with ALA Booklist The story s scope is immense, in both its technical challenges and underlying intellectual and moral questions perhaps too immense to be contained in a traditional narrative.The detail of Pox Party is alarming, truly The breadth and scope of Andersen s allusions is beyond even my higher education background I m adding Gulliver s Travels to my Fill in the Gaps list The horrors of the era are clear, and cemented firmly in the racist history and beliefs of such dignitaries as Thomas Jefferson The experiments are absurd and gut wrenching the child s feces are weighed and examined against the content of his meals There are scenes of graphic violence against Octavian and his mother.Coincidentally, I have just finished reading The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson, who, in 2006 reviewed Pox Party for The New York Times and had concerns about the intensity of Anderson s story She wrote, The chaotic early days of the conflict that would come to be known as the American Revolution unfold as a backdrop to his personal history, and the intensity of the violence Anderson depicts may be too intense for some readers.For in addition to all of the detail, the history, the characterization, Pox Party is made that much technically intricate by the fact that Anderson writes the entire thing in 18th century dialect The feat is amazing the result is less so I have tremendous respect for Anderson and his ability to be so consistent in two hundred year old styles of speech.I would hope that my reaction to the novel is merely summed up by this observation from Publisher s Weekly Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc There s no question the premise is intriguing and the examination of issues noble However, the meaty subject matter and Anderson s numerous stylistic devices e.g the use of different points of view and letters in dialect from another character render this a challenging listen even for a sophisticated audience.However, here s the plain truth.I didn t like this book, and I have been afraid to say so.I was afraid that I didn t like Pox Party because I might be racist No, no, no Nothing like you re imagining I have to think there are shades of racism I m absolutely not anti other races just check out my Facebook profile quote However, I couldn t and still can t decide if the fact that I couldn t identify with Octavian, that I felt so distant from him was an intentional plot device or an affirmation that, as a white woman, I could never hope to understand what it is to be the victim of racism.I mean, I can go around saying all day long I believe in equality I can vote for an African American, I can boycott publishers whose quotas of authors of color are low, but at the end of the day, if I haven t truly tried to be inside the body and mind of a victim of racism, then aren t I myself still stuck in the quagmire of racism And for that matter, back to Pox Party, should Anderson have been the one to write this novel I nearly fell off my chair when, in a Google search, I found out he s Caucasian The tone of the novel is obviously sympathetic to Octavian and the plight of slaves Anderson is, in fact, rather relentless in his condemnation of the men of the College and of the white society I just wonder how the book might have been different, written by, for example, M.K Asante, Jr or David Bradley or Colson Whitehead.I wrestle with these issues, all of them I can only hope that my openness and honesty will be respected at least for what they are the steps I myself can take I haven t decided yet if I will read the second volume about Octavian I m not sure my heart can handle it.As for Pox Party, I have read enough other reviews to know that I m not alone in my feeling a little off in my reaction Without a doubt, this is an important book. It s the kind that will do so well being taught in high school or college classrooms, where discussion and research are readily available It s not the kind to read before you go to bed, or to take to the beach But it is destined to be a classic, and I feel a little strangely about that, too.

  8. says:

    At first I didn t know what to think of this book I was horrified but strangely compelled to continue reading this tale of a slave boy raised in an experimental fashion By the end, my heart was completely captured and the following passage struck me in particular They told me of substance and form they told me of matter, of its consistency as a fluxion of minute, swarming atomies, as Democritus had writ they told me of shape and essence they told me of the motion of light, that it was the constant expenditure of particles flying off the surfaces of things they told me of color, that it was an illusion of the eye, an event in the perceiver s mind, not in the object they told me that color had no reality indeed, they told me that color did not inhere in a physical body any than pain was in a needle.And then they imprisoned me in darkness and though there was no color there, I still was black, and they still were white and for that, they bound and gagged me

  9. says:

    Impressive, sophisticated, expansive in its scope, although not exactly a page turner old timey language is a challenge.

  10. says:

    In broad genre terms, it s a slave story, but it s a consummately weird one that flickers in and out of other genres and spheres of influence, the most notable encroachments being on the Gothic novel and the heroic literature of the American Revolution The idea I keep turning around in my head is that it s in a complicated and fairly aggressive dialogue with some long term trends in YA correct me if you remember differently, but didn t most of the Revolutionary War novels largely ignore the question of slavery, and didn t most of the slave novels stay fairly isolated within the plantation atmosphere, and weren t the Gothic influenced novels pretty much separated from historical context altogether Anderson s seems to be aiming to pollute every part of historical YA fiction with everything else And I want to briefly mention another thing he s doing, at least with the first part of the story I think Octavian s early life is set up in such a way as to isolate and distill the horror of slavery itself By having the protagonist raised in comfort and relative ease, and withholding until later the gross physical degradations of slavery as practiced in the Americas that is, by removing the other types of horror that might confuse the issue Anderson leaves only the _existential_ horror of slavery the horror of being _owned,_ of being something other than a person And, okay, that s right there in the title, and every other evil of slavery comes crashing back in in the second half the book, but still, I think the method is worth acknowledging Anyway, right, the story itself I liked it Octavian is an interesting character and a weird ass narrator an unreliable one who desires, above nearly all else, to be reliable and is caught, further, between incompatible definitions of reliability The pathos is intense, the plotting is actually pretty brilliant, and I really do find myself wondering what Octavian will ultimately do and what his reasons will be I think Anderson s doing a good job at asking questions that aren t, in any conventional way, answerable And at wrecking poor Octavian s life __ Yes, the slave novel is intrinsically quite gothic in the first place, but Octavian is raised in 1 a wealthy and well appointed house, which is 2 largely isolated from the outside world, with 3 murky relationships of power and sex between all its adults, in which there is 4 a secret room where he is forbidden to go So Gothic, instead of just gothic You know what I m saying.