Book Review: Matthew Weber's "The Bull"

Matthew Weber's debut novel is a fun, light read with poignant libertarian themes. Photo: The Bull

MADISON, WI – If you’re a libertarian looking for a fun, engaging, culturally-relevant novel to read, then look no further than Matthew Weber’s The Bull

The Bull distills many tenets of libertarian theory into an easy-to-read work of fiction. The role of government, the nuisance of regulation, the virtue of the individual, and even some basic economic theory are all explored in the course of a narrative that chronicles the political ascendancy of racing legend-cum-restaurateur Frank Standish.

Former pastor Davenport Cornelius has held the title of mayor in a small Alabama town for several years, his position uncontested and his power unchecked. His hubris eventually reaches critical mass as the town’s residents begin to resist his intrusive ordinances and unsavory business dealings. Eminent domain, smoking bans, food regulations, fishing prohibitions—the list goes on; Cornelius and his lackeys have a predilection for control.

Enter Frank, a man of few words and even fewer uses for government bureaucracy. When the local government’s measures begin to have catastrophic effects on his friends, neighbors, and business, Frank takes action. It is completely by accident, however, that he gets entangled in the upcoming mayoral election.

The novel’s most dynamic character—by far—is Derek, the overshadowed son of an emotionally distant Frank. The narrative begins with Derek resisting authority, which the reader quickly learns is a common occurrence; he is actually on parole during the entire course of the story. Gradually, more and more is revealed about Derek’s life, and the reader inevitably ends up viewing Derek not as a troubled youngster, but rather as a mature hero.

Derek’s transformation is made explicit: “[Derek] had always harbored what he felt was a disdain for authority, but it was an unfocused, scattershot sort of animosity fueled by adolescent hormones…His dad’s struggles helped Derek to pinpoint the source of his angst and fixate a face upon it, focusing his teenage rage and crystallizing it into something potentially more constructive—an ideology.”

Indeed, Derek’s metamorphosis is a microcosm of what Weber seems to ask of the reader: to adhere to a focused ideology of individual freedom.

It is in this vein that I seemingly deviate from Weber in one major way. The ultimate moral of the novel—leave others alone to do what they please, so long as they do not harm anyone—is realized within the context of electoral politics. I do not think that this can happen. Any government, no matter how small in size or narrow in scope, is by its very nature antithetical to freedom.

Aside from the state vs. stateless issue, Weber handles issues of personal and economic liberty both realistically and adroitly. He incorporates them all seamlessly and accurately illustrates the causal links between them. In addition, he draws attention to the fact that many crimes are merely violations of legal fiat and do not actually harm anyone; therefore, they should be dealt with using voluntary means. 

A completely linear structure notwithstanding, Weber’s novel moves along at a brisk pace. There are no differentiated chapters—just numerous unnumbered sections, a peculiarity that reinforces a certain immanent inexorability.

Being new to the novel genre (this is his first), Weber writes not without a few minor shortcomings. However, these shortcomings are easily eclipsed by relatable characters, an engaging plot, an agreeable theme, and the deft inclusion of many relevant civic and personal issues. 

The Bull was published in 2012 by Pint Bottle Press and is available for sale in paperback on Amazon.

Joseph S. Diedrich also writes for the MacIver InstituteThe College Fix, Young Americans for Liberty, LibertyBlog.org, and in Young American Revolution magazine. Find him on FacebookGoogle+, LinkedIn and Twitter @JSDiedrich.


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Joseph S. Diedrich

Joseph S. Diedrich has been a columnist at The Washington Times Communities since early 2013. He covers non-electoral politics from a libertarian perspective. His work has also been featured at the MacIver InstituteThe College Fix, and elsewhere.

Joseph is also a classically-trained composer and somewhat of a gastronomy enthusiast. Find him on Facebook, LinkedInGoogle+, and Twitter @JSDiedrich.

 

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