August 29, 2006

History lesson

I fully admit to not being a history person. It was a subject I avoided as much as I could in high school, and steered completely clear of in college. And when I play Trivial Pursuit, my friends know that the final question for the win to give me should be yellow, since I'll likely get it wrong. (Sure, I'm not good at the Sports questions either, but there's at least a 10% chance there you get something about games or drinking.)

So imagine my surprise at how much I enjoyed and devoured Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation.

I picked up the book from QPB, but I think at the time I thought it was fiction or something. It's actually a non-fiction examination of the first three presidential assassinations - Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. The author travels the country visiting historical sites related to those events.

What's wonderful is Vowell's ability to paint a picture as if the events happened today. You hear all the crazy personalities involved, and how unbelieveable some of the events actually were. Take for example Robert Todd Lincoln, who was a bizarre harbinger of death. He attended the bed of his dying father, then was near Garfield when he was shot, and later found out McKinley had been shot in Buffalo mere moments before Lincoln had stepped off the train in that city!

Vowell's sarcastic style is great fun, but I'll warn my readers that she has a pretty sharp anti-Bush bent, so she won't be everyone's cup of tea.

Fun trivia fact - Vowell (a frequent NPR contributor) provided the voice for Violet, the daughter in The Incredibles. In fact, on the DVD there is a nifty extra where she does a video essay which in part shows her writing Vacation.

A great, quick read - A-!

7 comments:

ScottE. said...

Looking forward to taking it for a sping. Just have to finish THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA by Phil Roth. Good fictional history....A big ol' tale of "WHAT IF...."

The Kara said...

I am SO glad you wrote about this. I saw it in the bookstore and almost picked it up, but I was reading MANHUNT (about Abraham Lincoln assasination) and thought I needed a break... but I'm going to try to check it out next. Thanks!

Stef said...

Sounds good! I'll definitely pick it up. I did read MANHUNT earlier this year, and you'd probably like that one too.

Bonus - they're making MANHUNT into a movie, and word is that they've got Johnny Depp to play Booth!

the other rebecca said...

I highly recommend TAKE THE CANNOLI by Vowell as well. She's such an engaging writer!

Dancer in DC said...

Thanks for the tip, Rebecca! I have definitely thought about catching some more of her books since I enjoyed this one so much.

Stef said...

Thanks again for this suggestion - I just read it and found it not only enjoyable, but also helpful for work! I'm trying to learn as much as I can in as easy a way as possible about the Civil War (read: no big boring history texts for me!) so this was a really great choice. I'm also looking forward to giving TAKE THE CANNOLI a read!

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