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Assassination Vacation | [Sarah Vowell]

Assassination Vacation

Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrums of American history and culture with wit, probity, and an irreverent sense of humor. With Assassination Vacation, she takes us on a road trip like no other, a journey to the pit stops of American political murder and through the myriad ways they have been used for fun and profit, for political and cultural advantage.
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Publisher's Summary

Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrums of American history and culture with wit, probity, and an irreverent sense of humor. With Assassination Vacation, she takes us on a road trip like no other, a journey to the pit stops of American political murder and through the myriad ways they have been used for fun and profit, for political and cultural advantage.

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.

What the Critics Say

  • 2005 Audie Award Nominee, Multi-Voiced Performance
  • 2005 Publishers Weekly Listen Up Award, Humor

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (2049 )
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4.3 (527 )
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4.2 (535 )
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Ryan Koppelman 08-15-05

    Silicon Valley Dad, Lawyer and Tech Geek

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Distinctive Witty Historical Trivia"

    Vowell's book is about her unusual obsession with trivia regarding the assasinations of Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. She ironically self-depricates about how she has trouble finding an audience for her unusual trivia and how she is self-conscious in groups about her fascination with these historical events, alluding to a taboo about them. The irony is that the trivia is fascinating and the reader begins to understand her unusual obsession.

    She does complain about our "current president" as she calls him, but it is limited and her criticism is light and funny. Only a true partisan would be offended by her witty criticisms. She makes an extended and interesting analogy between the current Iraq war and the Spanish American war, in which McKinley was involved.

    I found most interesting Vowell's discussions of the unusual utopian "free-love" Onieda community, of which Garfield's assasin was a member. Many of her other annecdotes were just as entertaining.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa Vernon, British Columbia, Canada 07-07-05
    Lisa Vernon, British Columbia, Canada 07-07-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
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    "Quirky but highly informative"

    Both my husband and I listened to this book, as did our children when they were forced to in the car. Agreed, her delivery is a bit odd, and her voice takes a bit of getting used to, but I learned more US history (which says a lot, since that was my minor in university) from the 5 hours of this book than I learned in an entire university course. The depth of her knowledge on this topic is extensive, and her patriotism -- being defined as a true love for her country, not the flag-waving, blind devotion to AMERICA that the Right seems to define as the only "true" patriotism -- is undeniable. Her quirky humour kept me laughing, and the historical trivia kept me riveted through four or five straight days of commuting. I would recommend this to anyone who wants a different perspective on American history -- should be a hit with fans of Jon Stewart!

    11 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris Arlington, TX, United States 04-24-05
    Chris Arlington, TX, United States 04-24-05 Member Since 2003

    Likes any genre so long as it is done well.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Classic sarcastic Sarah Vowell"

    I happen to like Sarah's voice, but if you've never heard it, you need to listen to the sample, as some peole find it jarring.

    This is less a comedy than a very well researched, thoughtful history of three assasins of presidents. I really enjoyed it, and it had some humor to it.

    I wish I could do 4.5 starts, because I reserve 5 for the absolute best.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gene Washington , DC, USA 08-05-05
    Gene Washington , DC, USA 08-05-05 Member Since 2005
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    "Painful listening to terrific storytelling"

    I learned more about Lincoln, Garfield (who?) and McKinley than I ever imagined. The stories of the assassins themselves and their motives, backgrounds and post-shooting history was a step back into an Americana that possesses many surprising similarities to today's America.

    Unfortunately, listening to the narrator's voice was so painful for me. I slugged through it with only one break to hear what was coming next because I was on a plane; if I had several breaks, I would've been tempted at any time to not continue, just to avoid that voice! Lisa Simpson-esque, full of awkward starts and stops and pauses -- DEFINITELY listen to the sample first (I didn't).

    9 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dean Charlottesville, VA, United States 12-12-11
    Dean Charlottesville, VA, United States 12-12-11 Member Since 2008

    KoolMoeDean

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    "Interesting book, annoying author narration"

    This was an interesting quasi-history book. I say "quasi" because it is not a dry, objective history, but more of a narrative of the author's experience learning the history of some presidential assassinations. She infuses a lot of her personality into the history, which is generally interesting, funny, and mostly witty, but gets a little annoying toward the end. She also has a really annoying voice, and despite the "full cast" badge, she narrates 99.9% of it personally with a tiny smattering of the other credited narrators here and there.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A 09-14-10
    A 09-14-10 Member Since 2003

    Love to read. Mysteries, history, romance, biography, current events, science, classic fiction. No vampires. No zombies. No self-help. Find me on GoodReads and BookLikes.

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    "Book--8. Narration--2"

    While I enjoyed the book, the narration drove me nuts. First, Sarah Vowell's voice just doesn't have the right timbre for narration; and second, I could do without the guest readers to voice the quotes.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Talbert Peterborough, Ontario, Canada 12-19-09
    Talbert Peterborough, Ontario, Canada 12-19-09
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    "An Well-Written & Fun Account of US History"

    This book is a compelling account of Vowell's personal relationship with American history, of course mixed with info on the assassinations and the events surrounding them. Vowell's writing style of personal and historical tangents might put some people off, but this isn't a conventional history tome and shouldn't be treated as such. Vowell has a very cute voice too, so listening to her (and the dozen other readers thrown in) is quite enjoyable. This is a great audiobook for history-lovers and average readers alike.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Royal Oak, MI, USA 11-11-08
    Mark Royal Oak, MI, USA 11-11-08 Member Since 2006
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    "Great History Telling"

    Ms. Vowell's narrative voice isn't for everyone but if you give it a chance you'll think that no one else should be narrating this very funny, clever and thorough history of presidential assassinations. She has traveled to every place that has any connection with her subject and her observations of the sites, information and above all, human nature, are wonderful. This is the second time I've listened to it and I could listen again, not only for the learning aspect, but because Ms. Vowell is such good fun to listen to. If you think you know all you've ever need to know about presidential assassinations, think again. Here is the ultimate source, told in a very personal and entertaining manner. Ms. Vowell never takes herself seriously, either. Though the title seems grim and macabre, the book is anything but.
    Go along for the ride. You'll be glad you did.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Squier 06-25-07 Member Since 2004
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    "Vowell is Vonderful"

    This book was a joy to listen to, not only for Sarah Vowell's wonderfuly, quirky, and satisfyingly dissatisfied-with-our-current-administration perspective, but for the great introduction to our lesser known presidential assassins (and even those well known presidents' lesser known stories) And I say "introduction" even though I did go to high school, because once you've listened to them in this way, you actually feel like you've been introduced to them, and developed an interest in them, for the first time. And then of course there is Vowell's completely fabulous delivery. Having her talking in my ear while I weeded the garden, cleaned the house, and walked my dog was a total joy. I actually PROLONGUED any task I was doing, I was having so much fun. Thank you, Sarah, and thank you, Audible. MORE Sarah Vowell please!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt Charlotte, NC, USA 05-21-06
    Matt Charlotte, NC, USA 05-21-06
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    "Don't expect this book......"

    to be like "The Partly Cloudy" Patriot or "This American Life". Make no mistake, this is a history book. While I admit that a few hours of her voice is grating, her narration does draw you into amazing true stories she lays out for us. REALLY amazing insight and a genuine appreciate for the subject matter. You get the feeling she's been waiting to write this for sometime. I really enjoyed it and plan on reading Manhunt and Team of Rivals soon just to learn a little more. I agree with the previous poster. History for people who don't like history.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • Amazon Customer
    Harlow Essex England
    8/3/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A lovely story about assassination and family"
    What did you like most about Assassination Vacation?

    The little details.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Assassination Vacation?

    Robert Todd Lincoln rejuvenating the life of the brother of the murderer of the his father.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    See above


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Robert Todd Lincoln's fear of presidential death


    Any additional comments?

    These are lovely books telling a story we only hear mentioned.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • G. Evans
    England, UK
    6/12/11
    Overall
    "Hard to follow..."

    I really bought this for the grim but light hearted look on the history of presidential assasinations that this book promised as well as the fact that it has many famous narrators. Unfortunately the main narrator has a very distinctive voice which after a while, and bearing in mind this might just be me, but it does begin to grate a little. In fact after a about 5 hours i found that i could not concentrate on the audio because of how her voice comes across. Also, unless your listening really hard you do miss most of the other voices of the other people - theres no announcement they just come in say there bit and then disappear. I also felt that many of the wacky anecdotes seemed to be crushed together with no split or pause between them and i never knew which president she was referring to and at what time. I may have to give this another listen as I was fairly interested in the topic but for now my rating remains at a low one star :(

    0 of 3 people found this review helpful
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