Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Just Read: Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

I would be very superficial if I had discovered Sarah Vowell's writing because of her part as teenage superheroine Violet Parr in the wonderful Pixar movie The Incredibles. Luckily, I didn't; I'm very geeky because I discovered her from the They Might Be Giants movie documentary Gigantic, and was just reminded of her by The Incredibles. She's also relatively well-known for being an NPR commentator, but, of course, since I'm a Republican, lodge rules forbid me from listening to NPR. (But I do have my own copy of the White Guys Rule the World handbook, so it all evens out.)

So, earlier this year, I found a used copy of Take The Cannoli, one of her essay collections, and read it. (I'm finding that the things I read fastest these days are short non-fiction books, especially those made up of short essays; this probably says something about the attention span of a man with two boys under ten years old.) I liked most of the pieces in it, and, more importantly, I liked Vowell's voice: only slightly sarcastic, serious but not earnest, funny but not snarky, interested in odd facts and specific details. So I found this one, and read it almost as soon as I got it.

This was conceived as a single book in a way Take the Cannoli wasn't; it's a book about the assassinations of three presidents (Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley) and Vowell's trips to various places related to those assassinations. It's a very digressive book, which I enjoy, and takes an interesting tour through odd bits of late 19th century history and culture. Vowell is good at keeping her own politics in the subtext most of the time, and only letting it erupt when it works in her narrative (something a couple of dozen writers on both sides of the fence could productively study and emulate). But writing a book about assassinated presidents inevitably does lead to politics, both that of the past and the fights currently going on. Oddly enough, I agree with most of the contemporary political ideas Vowell brings up, which probably helped me enjoy the book more -- but I'd better shut up about that before the Republican Police come around and drum me out.

If you like American history, dead presidents, or odd facts, check out this book. If you're substantially more Republican than I am, though, you might find yourself grinding your teeth a bit.

No comments:

Post a Comment