Shelfari edited the description of The Public Burning Saturday, August 1, 2009.
For quite some time after the 1977 publication of The Public Burning , it was almost impossible to find a copy. The book's own publisher seemed--no, was reluctant to admit it even existed. That's because this imaginative reconstruction of the 1953 execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, convicted for giving atom bomb secrets to the Soviets, was the first major work of modern fiction to feature a still-living historical figure as a prominent character. The book's obscurity was the publisher's attempt to avoid legal repercussions from Richard Nixon, who over the course of the book engages in a romantic interlude with Ethel Rosenberg and graphically surrenders himself to a rapacious Uncle Sam. Now that Nixon's dead, however, readers are free to marvel at one of the few American novels to rival Joyce's Ulysses for sustained stylistic inventiveness. Snippets of speeches and articles from Time are recast in poetic form, entire scenes are presented in dramatic verse, as events in the Rosenberg case move towards their historically destined conclusion. --Ron Hogan