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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 (1991 )
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4.2 (482 )
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Performance
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  •  
    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
  •  
    Terry Nelson, British Columbia, Canada 06-20-09
    Terry Nelson, British Columbia, Canada 06-20-09 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Adore Sarah, but couldn't finish the book"

    The book just didn't seem to come together. She is the main narrator with emphasis or quotes given by her guest narrators.

    I really wanted to like this book. I put it down, and just didn't want to pick it up again.

    At first the tangents she would go off on were fun then the book seemed to have so many tangents, it became ... tangential.

    There are times I wonder how the book ended, though not enough to go back and listen to the rest.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jan Mesa, AZ, United States 08-23-10
    Jan Mesa, AZ, United States 08-23-10
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    "What a dissapointment...."

    Can't express my dissapointment about this book enough. I had enjoyed Ms. Vowell on Conan O'Brien's show several times and thought she was very funny. Oops. Though this would be a funny trip through some of Americas historical sites. Oops. She is constantly veering off track with these completely random thoughts that lend little or nothing to the content of the book. Also, every chance she gets to tell you how she feels about former President Bush.... she does... and often. Must confess that I could not finish the book. After about 2 hours of this drivel I gave up and have never gone back. Just unlistenable... if thats a word.

    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
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
  •  
    Sara Long Beach, CA, USA 01-30-06
    Sara Long Beach, CA, USA 01-30-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "funny and interesting!"

    "Assassination Vacation" was the first audiobook I was consistently excited to listen to when I got into my car at night to face the harrowing L.A. rush-hour traffic. I'm a Vowell fan, having enjoyed both her previous book ("The Partly Cloudy Patriot") and her appearances on "This American Life," and this book proved just as funny, entertaining, and informative as everything else Vowell writes.

    I've never been a history buff, but I was riveted by this book. the stories of the strange circumstances surrounding Lincoln's assassination were particularly interesting, as was the section about Charles Gaiteau and the Oneida sex cult. I came home every night brimming with historical tidbits, and was constantly regaling my friends with anecdotes from Vowell's book.

    Sarah Vowell's voice might be a bit hard for some to take, but I didn't have any problem with it. I've recommended this book to pretty much everyone I talk to.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim Tampa, FL, USA 06-26-05
    Jim Tampa, FL, USA 06-26-05 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "History CAN be fun!"

    I was never a big fan of history... all those names and dates are mind boggling, especially when offered in the typical cold and unpassionate style of most biographical material. Ms. Vowell makes learning about these events fun (and funny) and most importanty - easy to relate to and memorable. Her voice is a bit grating (thus, not the full 5 stars)... but, much like comedian Steven Wright, it may not have worked any other way.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • 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 2 people found this review helpful
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