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)
This is my favorite audiobook that I have downloaded from Audible, and my first exposure to Sarah Vowell. I love it! I have listened to it several times. It's funny, informative, and quirky. This book is as much about Ms. Vowell's strange fascination with history and presidential assassinations as it is about this history itself. It's nice to hear from someone who's not afraid to display enthusiasm for history and to make it come alive. Two caveats: First, As other reviewers have noted, this book has a very definite political viewpoint. If you don't share it, you might not enjoy this book. Second, Ms. Vowell has a very unique voice. Although I got used to it, not everyone might. To make sure that you can, check out the audio sample before downloading.
This book isn't as humorous as I had hoped, but it is highly interesting for people who like tidbits about American history that you don't learn in school. The author's voice is a bit odd, but that is what she is known for--especially from her radio appearances. I found it appealing--like a good friend who you can smile with. I was more interested in the details of the Lincoln assasination over Garfield's, for instance, but--poor Garfield--nobody ever remembers the guy.
With her NPR experience, Sarah Vowell is a marvelous reader of her own material. The other readers who dramatize portions of dialogue are inspired choices. Who else would have thought of Stephen King as Abraham Lincoln? And Jon Stewart has given me a whole new appreciation of James Garfield. The fellow who does Charles Giteau is unnervingly good. You won't soon forget his performance. Ms. Vowell really needs to start writing more history books in her own conversational, fun, warm style.
Like the previous reviewer I reserve 5 stars for the best and I give this 5 stars. Ms. Vowell brings to the listener what are obscure historical facts to most of us in such an entertaining way you don?t realize you are learning something. That is the mark of a master teacher. Her commentary on the current political events in our time and how they relate to past historical events is most insightful. Even if you don?t share her political views, her oratory will make you stop and think about your own beliefs. We as a nation need to do more of this introspection and Ms Vowell is an excellent guide. I also highly recommend ?The Partly Cloudy Patriot? by the author.
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.
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