The Little Book by Selden Edwards

 

Science Fiction

The Little book The Little BookSelden Edwards; Dutton 2008WorldCat“This is the story of how, through a dislocation in time, my son, Frank Standish Burden III, the famous American rock-and-roll star of the 1970s, found himself in Vienna in the fall of 1897. It is a complicated story, full of extraordinary characters and wild improbabilities.”

Winston Churchill, Samuel Clemens, Empress Elizabeth of Austria, Sigmund Freud, Benny Goodman, Adoph Hitler, Buddy Holly, William James, Mick Jagger, Carl Jung, Gustav Mahler

Wheeler Burden’s last memories of 1988 were shrouded. Now he is walking in the Ringstrasse of 1897 Vienna, Austria. He recognizes where/when he is because of the teaching of his preparatory school master, Arnauld Esterhazy. “Haze” had lived there when he was a young man before emigrating to the United States. He made every boy at St. Gregory’s understand his Austria.

Now Wheeler can see it for himself. He sees a city reaching a cultural apex just before its decline into the 20th century. Vienna was on the brink of a new era with prosperity and money on the surface and the poverty and injustices barely buried under that cover. Sigmund Freud was in an established practice as he developed his Oedipus complex theories. Music was the cultural apex. the Jung Wien, a group of artistic and intellectual young men, was gathering in the coffee shops and shaping the future.

Wheeler’s father, Frank Standish “Dilly” Burden Jr, had died a war hero in France towards the end of World War II. He had been captured and tortured, but had not given away the details of the final, overwhelming invasion (D-Day) by the Allies. Wheeler’s paternal family came from staid, upright Boston, but his grandfather never accepted his mother, an English Jewess, so after the war Wheeler and his mother lived on a California farm. It wasn’t until after his grandfather died that Wheeler went East and attended the prep school where his life was shaped by Haze.

Fortunately Haze’s vivid teaching stays with Wheeler and he is able to quickly blend in to the Austrian culture of the end of the 19th century. He knows immediately that he has to be careful to not influence the future, to make things change from what he knows. Yet one of the first people he meets is the young Arnauld Esterhazy. Wheeler then finds an income by working with Sigmund Freud. But more unexpected people will come into his life – people who influenced his life in the 20th century. How can he keep but affecting the future?

The Little Book is a masterpiece of twists, turns, real and imagined events, and a portrait of the world changes through the setting of one key European city over the past 100 years. Selden Edwards gives an excellent picture of a city that is the epitome of cultural achievements that ignores anything that doesn’t fit into its self-perception.

The government of the time is becoming anti-Semitic, which later influences Adolph Hitler during the years he lived there. The government turns it back and doesn’t see the plight of the workers and poor. It ignores the political clashes of three major social groups. Wheeler gets caught in one bloody riot when different groups all decided to mark on city all at the same time.

About the time the reader thinks all the players are in place, another unexpected character appears. The Little Book plays with the “endless loop” of history as Wheeler interacts with some of his own ancestors who happen to be in Vienna at the time. Now the man can observe the decay of 19th century European civilization and avoid affecting his own family time line. Or can he? Can he really change the future? Has he already done it? Or is all of this part of a traumatic delusion?

The book introductions state it took Selden Edwards 30 years to write this book – mostly because life kept interfering. His research into the late 1800’s Vienna as well as America in the first half of the 20th century must have taken years to collect. The Little Book is rich in concept as well as story and keeps throwing the reader a new curve – clear through to the end. Because it involves time travel this book may get classified and hidden away as speculative fiction. But it also belongs with mainstream literature. Check it out.

Oh, yeah, all those people listed in the second paragraph? They all appear in this book, mostly on stage although one or two are only referred to without actually being directly involved in this story.

Notice:  Non-graphic violence; Suggestive dialogue or situations

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