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)
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!
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.
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.
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!
Pretty good material and well written but never should have been read by the author. Her voice is totally annoying especailly her insufferable proclivity to put whole phrases in the middle of very long sentences into questioning inflectives...if it's a question, ask the damn question, if it's not, stop making it sound like one. About one third through it and not sure if I can make it. Please, please, please, listen before you buy!
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.
Sarah Vowell is the band geek that did good... in a history sense. She is like the funny, offbeat, obsessive young college professor that you had a crush on for pure charisma and infectious excitement about something that you previously thought was dull. You'll learn something new about American History in this book, laugh at and with the narrator, and feel like you just took the best road trip of your 30's. Highly recommended!
I love to be read to!
The monotone of Sarah Vowell is draining and really takes away from the abiltiy to engage and follow the story.
Usually I find authors do the best job of reading their books but not this time.
Pass on this one.
It seems witty enough - the premise looked interesting - but I'm afraid if I want to experience this I'll have to go out and buy the hardcopy.
It's definitely my fault - I almost always listen to the previews before buying, but this one time I didn't preview it and just added it to my Next Listen.
The author/reader's voice is so grating that I can't continue. The "up-talking" at the end of sentences on top of the general tonality of her voice sent me over the edge after 15 minutes.
If you're picky about your readers please preview this first.
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.
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