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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 BoothStephen King...President Abraham LincolnDave Eggers...Mike Ryan Catherine Keener...Gretchen Worden Jon Stewart...President James A. GarfieldTony Kushner...John Humphrey NoyesBrad Bird...Charles Guiteau & Emma GoldmanDaniel Handler...President William McKinleyGreg 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.

Critic Reviews

  • 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 Ratings

Overall

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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Performance

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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  • 2 Stars
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Story

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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  • Overall
  • Ian
  • Evanston, IL, USA
  • 10-12-05

Interesting, but a slight disappointment

I found that Assassination Vacation did not engage me as much as Sarah Vowell's other book, Partly Cloudy Patriot. It is full of interesting tidbits about the various assassinated presidents' lives, but it failed to engage me on any sort of emotional level.

Sarah Vowell writes well and tells interesting anecdotes, which works well in a book of short stories like Partly Cloudy Patriot. However Assassination Vacation is more of a travelog with no story arc -- not even a well defined route -- to follow. Hence, we're jolted back and forth in time and space as Vowell explores the three assassinations. In the end, there is no resolution, just a few wistfull sentences of reflection.

That the book seems to have no flow doesn't mean that it's not enjoyable. I like Sarah Vowell's self-deprecating writing style and have learned to accept her voice. There is a near constant stream of interesting historical nuggets that is enough for any info-buff to feast on. If you don't have long stretches to imerse yourself in a story, this book might be just the thing.

On the whole, I would recommend this book to people who have already listened to Partly Cloudy Patriot -- and enjoyed it -- and like historical trivia.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Tim
  • Bow, WA, USA
  • 09-08-05

a good one

A good book; entertaining and interesting. Some say the author's voice is a little irritating, but I liked it. It was like having my niece read for me.

  • Overall
  • John
  • Pleasanton, CA, USA
  • 06-29-05

Terrible

It's sounds like Lisa Simpson of the Simpson's cartoon show reading a book that shes never read before. Could not finish it.

10 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • A. Baker
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 06-28-05

History Made Fun

Yes, she's a total Lefty. Yes, her voice can sometimes be a little too much. And yes, her editor could have been a little more heavy handed with the cute bits. But Sarah Vowel is really smart and the way she links historical events is absolutely amazing. I really enjoyed it and I am listening to it a second time. It's history made fun. With a side of Republican bashing - lekker!

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jim
  • Tampa, FL, USA
  • 06-26-05

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 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Lara
  • Princeton, NJ, USA
  • 06-10-05

A new appreciation for President Garfield

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.

  • Overall
  • David
  • Sterling, VA, USA
  • 06-04-05

Get someone else to read it.

In The Incredibles her whiney voice is cute. After 1 hour I had had enough. Just couldn't finish it.

8 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Sarah Vowell is one of the best...

It is a true joy to listen to Sarah Vowell narrate her text. Not only is she witty with her words, but her voice sets off her writing in a way that no other could match. Sarah's narration of "Assassination Vacation" makes history interesting and takes it to a very personal level. This is one of the best audio books I have ever listened to.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Terrible narration

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.

8 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Cliff
  • Security, CO, USA
  • 05-04-05

A must for people concerned with CURRENT events

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.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful