Thursday, February 15, 2007

Reading: Sarah Vowell-Assassination Vacation

I just finished devouring Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. I picked up this book because of a glowing review in Nick Hornby's book Housekeeping Vs the Dirt.

Sarah Vowell is perhaps best known as the voice of Violet Parr from the Pixar animated film, The Incredibles. In addition to having mad voice over skills, she is a incredibly talented author who has published several books and who is a regular contributer to This American Life on NPR.

Vowell is one odd cookie. She is obsessed with death and US History. So of course she wrote a book about the first three US presidential assassinations-Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley- and the obscure facts surrounding them. She is witty, highly irreverent, and fascinated with the minutiae of history.

I knew I would love the book when I read the first line...
Going to Ford's Theatre to watch the play is like going to Hooters for the food.
Vowell takes readers on a pilgrimage to the sites and monuments that pay homage to Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley, visiting everything from grave sites and simple plaques to places like the National Museum of Health and Medicine, where fragments of Lincoln's skull are on display. She talks about not only the figures involved in the assassinations, but the social and political circumstances that led to each-and in a fabulously entertaining manner. She also drew some fascinating connections between past events and the present, noting similarities between McKinley's war against Cuba and the Philippines and the current war in Iraq. History at its best, most educational, and most twisted.

I am a total trivia nerd and retain useless facts that I can spit out at inappropriate times OR when I play Trivial Pursuit type games. This book was a GOLD MINE for me! Did you know that Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abe, was present at all THREE assassinations? He was a presidential death hex! OR that he saved the life of Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated Lincoln? OR (and this is my favourite one) that Garfield's assassin , Charles Guiteau, was an occasional member of The Oneida Society . The Oneida Society practiced communalism-free love. Basically, every man was married to every woman. most adults had continuous sexual access to a partner. Guiteau however "was the one guy in a free love commune who could not get laid." hee hee hee.

Three dead presidents up for Assassination Vacation! I can't wait to read her other books!

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