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 lighter diversions into the lives of the three presidents and their assassins, including mummies, show tunes, mean-spirited totem poles, and a 19th-century biblical sex cult.
In Order of Appearance:
Conan O'Brien...Robert Todd Lincoln
Eric Bogosian...John Wilkes Booth
Stephen King...President Abraham Lincoln
Dave Eggers...Mike Ryan
Catherine Keener...Gretchen Worden
Jon Stewart...President James A. Garfield
Tony Kushner...John Humphrey Noyes
Brad Bird...Charles Guiteau & Emma Goldman
Daniel Handler...President William McKinley
Greg Giraldo...President Theodore Roosevelt
David Rakoff...Leon Czolgosz
©2005 Sarah Vowell; (P)2005 Simon & Schuster Inc. AUDIOWORKS is an imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division, Simon & Schuster, Inc.
"Vowell has a perspective on American history that is definitely funny." (School Library Journal)
"Wacky, weirdly enthralling....This is history at its most morbid and most fascinating and, fortunately, one needn't share Vowell's interest in the macabre to thoroughly enjoy this unusual tour." (Publishers Weekly)
"An engaging tour....Audiobook listeners get serious bang for their buck, including guest appearances by Stephen King (as Lincoln), Jon Stewart, Conan O'Brien, and Eric Bogosian, among others." (AudioFile)
Thank you, Sarah Vowell, for being the history teacher I never had. Vowell offers witty, engaging and critical accounts of American history as she reveals her quirky yet endearing affection for our founding fathers and texts. Funny, informative and provocative, I like a women who loves our country while at the same time recognizes its faults, and of course, someone who deeply respects Lincoln, but can admit that J. Wilkes Booth was kind of hot. Post-modern history is here!
I enthusiastically recommend this book. The reader is not required to be interested in assignations, Lincoln or Garfield all that is required is an vague appreciation of history and excellent writing. Sarah Vowell writes history with the voices of humor and irony, and she is always entertaining.
I really like Sarah Vowell and she maximizes the humor in this book. But when it comes right down to it, her topic isn't that interesting. She writes about street corners and statues of ex and often dull presidents. There is a whole chapter written about her thoughts on the musical "Assassins." I was looking forward to all of the guest narrators (Stephen King, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart & Conan O'Brian) but having famous narrators didn't add much to the story because they all read the lines straight.
A few parts that I did find interesting:
Charles Guiteau's time in the Oneida coop back when they were a sex cult and before they made china; Robert Todd Lincoln as the symbol of doom having witnessed two presidential assassinations.
I really enjoyed this one. The readers voice fits the content well, and there are great tid bits of history that spin off from the main topic, which are very enlightening.
This book was both educational and entertaining. Vowel's take on things is very interesting, and she weaves the facts and her hilarious perspective on them in a witty
and engaging way.
Be kind to someone today.
After getting to know Sarah's work on National Public Radio, this was my first of her books. Entertaining!
The most entertaining aspect of this book is the nuggets of obscure but entertaining historical facts dug up by the author. In the vein of Mark Kurlansky, but with Charles Addams' humor and the political sensibility of the Daily Show. The last chapter demonstrates how one can be deeply and lovingly patriotic but still critical of the government and "liberal".
What a fun book; droll and super-interesting. The reader is a pitch perfect match for Vowell's writing voice. Not for listening to while otherwise occupied -- it requires full focus. I'll listen to this one again!
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