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)
Smart, funny and very, very droll. The audio book features a number of guest voices (Stephen King, Jon Stewart). This book is entertaining from beginning to end.
Horrible narration...far left perspective...occasionally interesting anecdotes. Only determined effort got me through this stinker. Would not recommend.
I found the bits of trivia entertaining, but I would have rather read it than listened to it.
I enjoyed Sarah on NPR, but in this book her reading was dry and there was no emphasis to those lines that would've read as quirky and humorous. Depending on the section it would either bore me or annoy me, instead of pull me into the story.
I might be interested, but I would read it instead.
It's not a problem with the story, but instead with the narration.
After hearing about this book on "Stuff you Missed in History", I was intrigued by the overall concept of it. However, I didn't realize this would read like an actual travel diary, throwing in personal information and strewn together tangents. What I was really hoping for what a deeper historical recollection written more like a research paper as opposed to someone's notes from a trip. Before recommending it to someone, I will explain what this tome entails, it was not for me, but some others may approve.
The narrator is the author of the book, which makes you feel like you are at a dinner party listening to all of her accounts on her trip around the Northeast. I thought it was distracting especially adding in her first hand tales. Her voice is one you have to get used to.
I had so hoped that this book would be right up my alley.
And I think that the subject matter IS - but unfortunately as an audiobook, I could barely get through it.
The "narrated by" lists Conan O'Brien, Jon Stewart and others. However the book is actually narrated by Sarah Vowell. The celebrities are just special guests. I know that having authors narrate their own books is a popular thing to do - but this is just not her forte. She reads the book incredibly slowly (1.5x speed made it manageable, though) and her voice just isn't pleasant for hours upon hours of reading.
The subject matter is interesting and the stories compelling...but she does give PLENTY of her own opinion. Too much, in my thinking, for this type of book, but perhaps that is her style. Lots of comments about President Bush (that seem to come out of nowhere and don't fit the book) and some rather high & mighty views of well...most everything other than NYC.
I finished listening simply because I had paid good money for the book and wanted to hear all the stories. But I say pass on this book. There are better ones out there about the subject. At best, read it, don't listen.
I got sucked in by the reviews; I'll read them more closely next time.
After a brief introduction to this travelogue, one is treated to a generous dose of gratuitous Bush bashing. I hadn't realized that this was book was going to have a political side editorial. Nevertheless,the reviews lead me to listen through the first half; whereupon I found MS Vogel's reading style truly annoying. The content consists of an endless cataloging of insignificant trivia related to a subject of even less interest. I'm sure there were some interesting historical facts along the way, but by that time I was so tuned out that I gave up half way through the Garfield episode. There are some humorous metaphors scattered throughout, but I suspect that unless you are of the liberal persuasion, you will find much of the "humor" grating. Politics aside, the subject matter isn't worth the time or effort. You can put your listening time to better use.
I read many of the customer reviews prior to downloading this book so I was prepared for the "mousey" voice of the author/narrator and while it was a bit distracting at first, it didn't spoil the experience of what is a well researched and somewhat humorous book on a facinating, if not macabre topic. Unfortunately, the author's obviously biased political views and her tendancy to paint everyone who isn't a fairly left-leaning Liberal with the broad brush of being "misguided" I found to be tiresome. I don't recommend this one unless you are prepared to filter through the political opinions and personal beliefs to get to the interesting facts.
Take out the constant references to George Bush and the Iraq war and she could have covered much more detail. I bought the book to review history not a lecture on the present state of affairs!
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