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)
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!
I've always liked the author on the radio or in TV bits, but wow. Listening to that voice for this long... wow. I know she makes fun of herself for being psychotically interested in minute details of assassinations, but since I'm not that interested in where an assassin did his laundry, the novelty ran out quick.
Sarah Vowell is smart and funny and so are her books. I enjoy her point of view and her ability to see the absurd. She really brings an insight to our countries history that is not taught in schools and I love her little squeaky voice!
Really enjoyed this.
While Sara's voice may be grating to some, I really felt that her enthusiasm for the subject came thru, which is why I disagree with the idea it's better read; her voice is quirky which helps give a sense of the personality of a person who would go on such a "vacation". Frankly, I found the use of the other voices more distracting and not as well executed (just broke up the narrative at times and not as well utilized). I thought Bogasian was great, O'Brien very good if only for the fact I didn't recognize him, but as I listened I could see Jon Stewart behind his TDS desk doing a presidential impression. Took me out of it a bit.
I found the stories interesting; I liked how she presented the ironic twists of historical fate. On numerous occassions, I laughed out loud.
Although I don't agree with all her personal views and despite the comedic tones, it's clear she has a deep respect for the subject.
for some reason, this one didn't do it for me. I love Sarah Vowell, love her quirky voice and speaking style, and lefty, atheist ways. I very much enjoyed Partly Cloudy Patriot, but this one I just never really got into. It definitely made history more enjoyable than usual, but not so much that I was looking forward to each listening opportunity, which is what usually happens when I'm really enjoying an audio book. Still, I look forward to her next one.
I like the author and find her other work good. This book is good, but I am not enough of an assasination history fan to stick this out. I think it's too creepy.
I've never liked nor had an aptitude for history, mainly because names and dates and places just get jumbled in my head. They seemed dried and boring.
Having seen Vowell on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the book intrigued me and was my first Audiobook purchase. I enjoyed it so much I came back and bought a membership.
The book is up for an award, and rightly so. Even History Haters can enjoy this, and Vowell's self-professed skewed view on the world is delightful.
One note: the list of "Guest Stars" made me wonder if they each narrated a chapter. They do not. Vowell narrates the whole thing, and the guest stars are used for relevant quotations where appropriate. I rather enjoyed this and would have purchased the book sooner had I realized that she was the narrator.
Simply the most engaging, intelligent, entertaining audiobook as read by its genial, sardonic, wry, engaging writer. If wishing for a new chapter didn't involve treason, oh, well. . . . Please give us more books immediately, and thank you for the two you have.
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