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Publisher's Summary

In The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Sarah Vowell travels through the American past and, in doing so, investigates the dusty, bumpy roads of her own life. In this insightful and funny collection of personal stories Vowell - widely hailed for her inimitable narratives on public radio's This American Life - ponders a number of curious questions: Why is she happiest when visiting the sites of bloody struggles like Salem or Gettysburg? Why do people always inappropriately compare themselves to Rosa Parks? Why is a bad life in sunny California so much worse than a bad life anywhere else? What is it about the Zen of foul shots? And, in the title piece, why must doubt and internal arguments haunt the sleepless nights of the true patriot?

Her essays confront a wide range of subjects, themes, icons, and historical moments: Ike, Teddy Roosevelt, and Bill Clinton; Canadian Mounties and German filmmakers; Tom Cruise and Buffy the Vampire Slayer; twins and nerds; the Gettysburg Address, the State of the Union, and George W. Bush's inauguration.

The result is a teeming and engrossing audiobook, capturing Vowell's memorable wit and her keen social commentary.

This audiobook is read by Sarah Vowell, Conan O'Brien, Seth Green, Stephen Colbert, David Cross, Paul Begala, Michael Chabon, and Norman Lear.

©2002 Sarah Vowell (P)2002 Simon & Schuster Inc. All Rights Reserved. AUDIOWORKS is an imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division, Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"This is a humorous, insightful, and informative look at one individual's sense of patriotism." (Booklist) "Droll, intelligent, and persuasive." (Entertainment Weekly)

What members say

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  • Overall

One of the best surprises on AUDIBLE.COM!!

I usually only listen to the radio for traffic reports so I was not familiar with Sarah Vowell when I purchased this audiobook. I was impressed with the consistency of the reviews and figured I'd take a chance. I only wish Sarah Vowell had many more books to listen to as this was so enjoyable I sat in my driveway finishing one of the 'stories'.

The moronic review of Vowell as a 'female Al Franken' reveals more ignorance on the part of the reviewer than insight into Vowell's politics. But if you think anyone who is not a fan of George Bush is Al Franken (a.k.a. the Antichrist) perhaps you won't like Vowell. She has her own very distinct voice --and her approach to politics comes via a Montana childhood, a gun-loving family, and very unusual taste in vacations for a person of her age. The comparison with Franken would be comical if it weren't so pathetic. Other than the fact that both authors are clearly more intelligent than average--and funnier--only their dislike of Bush unites them . I hardly think one needs to be 'warned' against listening to such a thoughtful and reasoned presentation of ideas--unless your mind is already atrophied and closed.

Sarah Vowell does in fact have an unusual vocal quality--a sort of tiny, sharp voice that makes me think she must be short and delicate-boned; but in fact I loved listening to her voice reading her book. Her thinking is quick but she presents slowly and methodically and builds up to conclusions that somehow seem ineluctable once you've heard them--though she is nothing if not quirky.

She talks a lot about visiting historical sites and landmarks...which are quite a passion of hers. It is this aspect of the book which gives her writing its distinctive voice and flavor.

If you can expand your mind to encompass more kinds of Patriots than the 'my country right or wrong' type, don't miss Sarah Vowell's 'Partly Cloudy Patriot'!!

179 of 199 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Levi
  • Reston, VA, USA
  • 10-04-03

The Partly Cloudy Patriot

Sarah Vowell is a unique voice, in more ways than one. She mixes astute observations with historical facts and throws in a lot of wry humor and biographical musings. Idiologues will probably be impatient with the contradictions. Although she is unabashedly liberal, she is also unabashedly patriotic and fervent about the documents of the founding fathers. Not that these two are contradictory, but the way things play out liberals are often seen as unpatriotic because they are not flag wavers shouting "America first no matter what." If you've heard Sarah on This American Life, you know she has a very distinct-sounding voice, which I can only describe as being a little like Lisa Simpson. If you like This American Life, The Partly Cloudy Patriot is a little like listening to 5 hours of it, although it's just Sarah with a few Cameos thrown in narrating quotes from presidents and friends, and of course They Might Be Giants as musical accompaniment.

118 of 132 people found this review helpful

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  • Rudi
  • aurora, IL, USA
  • 11-29-04

Entertaining regardless of your personal beliefs

I consider it the greatest compliment that I unequivocally enjoyed this book (including the author's unique voice) despite disagreeing completely with her political leanings. Vowell has a very intelligent and humorous way of making her points, and the stories she tells give a really interesting view of history and patriotism. If you enjoy This American Life, you'll like the Partly Cloudy Patriot.

25 of 28 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A great listen

Sarah's a bit of a liar; she was not, in fact, the biggest music nerd in high school; at best, she was fourth or fifth in line for that distinction. But aside from that inaccuracy, this audio presentation of her popular essay collection is absolutely delightful. Whether her voice smacks of Lisa Simpson (other reviewer's comparison) or Abe Lincoln (Sarah's own conjecture), her timbre and pacing instantly recall that warm sense of comfort and ease we get each year when Linus starts reciting the story of Christmas to Charlie Brown. Regardless of whether you agree with her politics, this commentary is intelligent, the thoughts insightful, and the timing & prose easily skip between "poetic" and "hilarious".

Sarah has apparently Hit the Big Time, bringing along Conan O'Brian, Seth Green, and... Norman Lear?!?... to provide additional voices. Fortunately, the high-powered talent never overwhelms or distracts from Sarah's content, and perhaps only Conan COULD deliver the "F'ing Meade..." line appropriately. But the real stars of Sarah's guest list are They Might Be Giants, contributing not just funny little transition ditties, but some truly catchy songs as well (Gallows's Hill & Andersonville may seem the obvious favorite, but Pop-A-Shot's hook just won't leave my head...).

Kudos and Thanks, Sarah, on/for this wonderful audio presentation of your work. It's nice to hear an author and publisher taking the time to make their audio book something unique and special.

23 of 26 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Colin
  • Fort Wayne, IN, USA
  • 12-30-04

So what's wrong with Sarah's voice?

Not only has she made her name as a radio performer but Disney/Pixar saw fit to cast her (voice) as Violet in The Incredibles. I always enjoy hearing authors reading their own work, even if they don't have James Earl Jones' voice. They add an element that no narrator can; the true intended intonation.

15 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Clear Reasons to Read

I just read Vowell's new book, The Wordy Shipmates, and loved it so much I immediately picked up the The Partly Cloudy Patriot. If Assassination Vacation was available unabridged at Audible I read that next.

Partly Cloudy Patriot is good fun....but nowhere near as smart or well developed as her latest book. You can see her maturity as a writer between the books, as Vowell is finding her voice in Patriot. In Shipmates, Vowell moves from a humorist (or essayist) to a historian.

Still....I enjoyed spending a few hours with Vowell - and came away feeling better about my own geek, history loving cred.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great listening

I listened to this book while walking in a premarathon walk...and it was entertaining enough to keep me laughing through 18 miles. Insightful, funny, and intelligent.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A unique voice

Sarah Vowell is a unique voice in modern literature. I always enjoy hearing her thoughts, even if I don't always agree with them.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Ken
  • Lafayette, IN, USA
  • 04-22-05

OK but not great

I enjoyed the book but was hoping for something more. I've enjoyed her pieces on This American Life. This is really just a collection of stories that will cause you to chuckle or smile. By the fifth hour, I was ready for it to be over.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Todd
  • Albuquerque, NM, USA
  • 07-12-05

Very entertaining and well written book

It has been a long time since I have listened to a book as entertaining as this one. Sarah Vowell writes wonderfull well without preaching. She is very good at letting you know her political affiliation and the reasons why she is what she is without demonizing or attacking others beliefs. She tells wonderful funny vignettes and situations that just make her ask why.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Joan
  • 07-27-12

A potentially good book spoiled by bad narration

I greatly enjoyed the print editions of two of Sarah Vowell's other books (Take the Cannoli and The Wordy Shipmates) and I thought I would enjoy this audiobook at least as much. I was wrong. It might be a very good book, but it's hard to tell with the awkward, stilted narration. Vowell reads her book in the style of a child reading aloud in class without fully understanding the text. I think it's done for comedic effect, but I just find it irritating. Very disappointing.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-07-17

A mix of earnest sincerity and sly irony

Would you consider the audio edition of The Partly Cloudy Patriot to be better than the print version?

Yes. Some people dont like Sarah Vowells very characteristic voice, but I'm not one of them. I could listen to her deadpan lilting voice all day - without her intonations, some of this material wouldnt be quite as funny.

What other book might you compare The Partly Cloudy Patriot to, and why?

This is a good example of her more general essays. If you like this, get David Rakoffs Fraud, which takes this sort of writing to the next level, in my opinion.

What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

As mentioned, I'm in love with Sarah's voice (and perhaps Sarah too?). You want the audio of her work, as she can be in quick succession heartbreakingly sincere subtly mocking, and her delivery amplifies this.

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

The stories where she speaks of AMerican politics and history are moving for her sincerity and genuine concern, and her takes on more throwaway pop culture (pop-a-shot, Tom Cruise, the Arthouse theatre scene) are playful and surprisingly insightful.

Any additional comments?

This is well worth a listen - check the audio demo first - she has a love/ hate voice. That said, if you want a more focused and polished work (and arent averse to some US history) seek out her Assassination Vacation, which i think is her best balance of personality/ humor/ cultural analysis and politics.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful