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Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrumsof American history and culture with wit, probity, and an irreverent sense of humor. With Assassination Vacation, she takes us on a road trip like no other -- a journey to the pit stops of American political murder and through the myriad ways they have been used for fun and profit, for political and cultural advantage. From Buffalo to Alaska, Washington to the Dry Tortugas, Vowell visits locations immortalized and influenced by the spilling of politically important blood, reporting as she goes with her trademark blend of wisecracking humor, remarkable honesty, and thought-provoking criticism. We learn about the jinx that was Robert Todd Lincoln (present at the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) and witness the politicking that went into the making of the Lincoln Memorial. The resulting narrative is much more than an entertaining and informative travelogue -- it is the disturbing and fascinating story of how American death has been manipulated by popular culture, including literature, architecture, sculpture, and -- the author's favorite -- historical tourism. Though the themes of loss and violence are explored and we make detours to see how the Republican Party became the Republican Party, there are all kinds of lighter diversions along the way into the lives of the three presidents and their assassins, including mummies, show tunes, mean-spirited totem poles, and a nineteenth-century biblical sex cult.
InThe Partly Cloudy Patriot, Sarah Vowell travels through the American past and, in doing so, investigates the dusty, bumpy roads of her own life. In this insightful and funny collection of personal stories Vowell -- widely hailed for her inimitable narratives on public radio'sThis American Life-- ponders a number of curious questions: Why is she happiest when visiting the sites of bloody struggles like Salem or Gettysburg? Why do people always inappropriately compare themselves to Rosa Parks? Why is a bad life in sunny California so much worse than a bad life anywhere else? What is it about the Zen of foul shots? And, in the title piece, why must doubt and internal arguments haunt the sleepless nights of the true patriot?Her essays confront a wide range of subjects, themes, icons, and historical moments: Ike, Teddy Roosevelt, and Bill Clinton; Canadian Mounties and German Filmmakers; Tom Cruise and Buffy the Vampire Slayer; twins and nerds; the Gettysburg Address, the State of the Union, and George W. Bush's inauguration. The result is a teeming and engrossing audiobook, capturing Vowell's memorable wit and her keen social commentary.
Commentary from a frequent contributor to NPR's This American Life.
In Unfamiliar Fishes, Sarah Vowell argues that 1898 might be a year just as defining, when, in an orgy of imperialism, the United States annexed Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam, and invaded first Cuba, then the Philippines, becoming an international superpower practically overnight. Vowell lights out to discover the off, emblematic, and exceptional history of the fiftieth state, and in so doing finds America, warts and all.
Vowell explores the Puritans, the moral, philosophical and spiritual ancestors of our nation, and discovers something far different from what their uptight reputation suggests.
The Wordy Shipmates is New York Times bestselling author Sarah Vowell's exploration of the Puritans and their journey to America to become the people of John Winthrop's "city upon a hill -- a shining example, a city that cannot be hid." To this day, America views itself as a Puritan nation, but Vowell investigates what that means -- and what it should mean. What was this great political enterprise all about? Who were these people who are considered the philosophical, spiritual, and moral ancestors of our nation? What Vowell discovers is something far different from what their uptight shoe-buckles-and-corn reputation might suggest. The people she finds are highly literate, deeply principled, and surprisingly feisty. Their story is filled with pamphlet feuds, witty courtroom dramas, and bloody vengeance. Along the way she asks: * Was Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop a communitarian, a Christlike Christian, or conformity's tyrannical enforcer? Answer: Yes! * Was Rhode Island's architect, Roger Williams, America's founding freak or the father of the First Amendment? Same difference. * What does it take to get that jezebel Anne Hutchinson to shut up? A hatchet. * What was the Puritans' pet name for the Pope? The Great Whore of Babylon. Sarah Vowell's special brand of armchair history makes the bizarre and esoteric fascinatingly relevant and fun. She takes us from the modern-day reenactment of an Indian massacre to the Mohegan Sun casino, from old-timey Puritan poetry, where "righteousness" is rhymed with "wilderness," to a Mayflower-themed waterslide. Throughout, The Wordy Shipmates is rich in historical fact, humorous insight, and social commentary by one of America's most celebrated voices. Thou shalt enjoy it. .