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)
Great subject completely mishandled. Three flaws: (1)the narration makes this impossible to listen to. Authors with this type whiney voice should never mar their works by wanting to deliver them verbally. (2)The material was presented in a haphazard and unconnected manner. If the author had an organization to it, it never came out. (3) The senseless political repartee scattered throughout the book was childish.
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.
This plain-spoken, dead pan humorist takes you by surprise in a similar way that David Sedaris does. There is absolutely nothing flashy about her, and her cracks are delivered with as straight a face as her cold hard facts about the killing of presidents. I found myself wondering how she ever got people to listen to her in the first place. Thank goodness someone did! She is proof that not just the obnoxious, crude or outrageous can capture the spotlight.
This book will teach you as well as entertain you. It will endear you to the author as much as it endears you to Lincoln; it will also turn you against Wm. McKinley, who may rival Bush for his love of violence and manipulation.
If you enjoy Sedaris, books that take you on a literal journey like those of Bill Bryson or Michael Palin, or Jon Stewart's America, this should be your next book. So why 4 stars? Honestly, this book is a notch below some of the aforementioned.
Avid reader of classics and fiction, history and well-written genre novels. Music lover and huge audiobook fan.
Sarah Vowell has an amazingly weird imagination and a curiously sweet and high-pitched voice. Her low key delivery in no way prepares you to hear her tell such twisted, funny yet morbid stories.
Part of the satisfaction of hearing this book recorded is the shock of that sweet Midwestern voice telling such gruesome tales with such obvious relish. The other part is hearing such astute political commentary from such a weird perspective.
I keep thinking she's about to narrate a Betty Crocker cookbook, and then she provides historical insight and analyis combined with political commentary that gets right to the blazing white heart of contemporary America.
I love having this book as an audible file so that I can go back and listen again and again--there is so much here that each 'reading' reveals more. Vowell's focus on assasination is both weird and fascinating, but her razor sharp intelligence could make me listen to just about anything she found interesting enough to write about.
I'd give it a 4.8 if possible. I was so happy to find Sarah after enjoying her work on "This American Life". She is very bright and I really like her voice. Author's are not always the best narrators but Sarah is a clear exception. She is able to communicate exactly what she means with her vocal nuances, particularly her highly developed sense of irony. Well done!
This book should not be in the history section as the author relies too much on her personal bias to convey the stories in the book. Her voice is also very annoying after about thirty minutes as it sounds like a valley girl. I wanted to learn more about the assassinations not about her feelings regarding plaques on historic buildings.
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.
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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