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The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell

The Partly Cloudy Patriot (2002)

by Sarah Vowell

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Passably amusing essays on citizenship, American history, and the transition between the Clinton era and the Bush v2 era. I should have liked this better, because the author is clearly very similar to me, but This American Life has never really caught my fancy, and this book uses the same tone. ( )
  bexaplex | Jan 29, 2017 |
Sarah Vowell? She is me. Plus, she loves Canada only slightly more than me. ( )
  olevia | Dec 18, 2016 |
Vowell's essays read like she's in my head doing her TAL schtick. Worth reading, I especially like the one about Al Gore's nerdiness. ( )
  cookierooks | Nov 16, 2016 |
As with her other books, Sarah Vowell brings her fresh perspective to key historical figures and events. Unlike her other books, she does not focus on just one point in history but covers the gamut of it. She discusses the Salem Witch Trials to the 2000 presidential election and everything in-between. Written in 2001, it is rather amusing to hear some of her opinions on the more modern moments because some of the insights are a bit dated. I would love to see her revisit some of the themes and moments using the power of hindsight and an additional fifteen years of observation. However, no matter what she had to say back in 2001, she does it with a love of the country and an enthusiasm for the processes on which our country runs that is difficult to surpass.

One of the best things about Sarah’s observations is that she takes no prisoners. She mocks everything and everyone, including herself. Yet, she does so with respect and love. She also knows how to temper her enthusiasm about a subject. For example, there are several essays about the cluster that was the 2000 presidential election; she is an unabashed Gore fan and has no problems telling everyone about it. However, she knows and understands why he struggled during the election, why the pundits mocked his earnestness, etc. and she even goes on to do some of her own mocking. Because of her admiration of Gore, she could have railed against the unfairness of that particular election. Instead, she presents the election and the aftermath fairly, with only a little of her bias showing.

If anything, Sarah makes it okay to talk about and care about all things political and all things historical. Not only that but she illustrates how important caring about such things really is. She makes some fascinating points about changes at national parks, commercialism at historical sites, presidential idiosyncrasies, and more, and her enthusiasm is infectious. In this year of one of the strangest, most divisive elections we have ever had, a time when patriotism should run rampant as everyone gets a chance to exercise their constitutional right to vote, The Partly Cloudy Patriot is a great reminder of our proud, and not-so-proud, moments and people in history.

Through her essays in The Partly Cloudy Patriot, I now have a girl crush on Sarah. Scratch that. I want to find her and tell her that we should be best friends. It would be a match made in heaven. Her historical nerd cred is off the charts, which I adore, plus, she calls Buffy the Vampire Slayer one of the smartest, funniest and best shows on television. She then goes on to explain the show in detail. See? I may even love her a bit after that.

For those who have never experienced any of Sarah’s works, The Partly Cloudy Patriot with its short essays on a very eclectic variety of subjects is a great place to start. Not everything she has to say is about historical events or people. She also touches on her childhood, her love of a certain arcade game, and more. Still, her love of the United States is palpable and refreshing in its directness. We all should be so enthusiastic about our collective past, present, and future.
  jmchshannon | May 10, 2016 |
Funny little essays, mostly about US history and politics. I really liked Vowell in her Daily Show interview, but these fell flat for me. She's obviously funny and thoughtful and well-informed--but not much. I never giggled out loud, or realized something new, or learned a neat tidbit about history. I learned a bit about Sarah Vowell, and she seems cool--but that's not enough to power an entire collection. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
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After every great battle, a great storm. Even civic events, the same. On Saturday last, a forenoon like whirling demons, dark, with slanting rain, full of rage; and then the afternoon, so calm, so bathed with flooding splendor from heaven's most excellent sun, with atmosphere of sweetness; so clear, it show'd the stars, long, long before they were due. As the President came out on the Capitol portico, a curious little white cloud, the only one in that part of the sky, appear'd like a hovering bird, right over him.
-Walt Whitman, witnessing Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, Memoranda During the War
To Amy
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There are children playing soccer on a field at Gettysburg where the Union Army lost the first day's fight.
When you have a baby around, the baby is the movie. We occupy an entire entertaining hour just on drool, nonnarrative drool.
On the other hand, there are few creepier moments in cultural tourism than when a site tries to rewrite its past.
The more history I learn, the more the world fills up with stories.
I was such a young fogy that growing up involved becoming less mature.
California is about the good life. So a bad life there seems so much worse than a bad life anywhere else. Quality is an obsession there— good food, good wine, good movies, music, weather, cars. Those sound like the right things to shoot for, but the never-ending quality quest is a lot of pressure when you’re uncertain and disorganized and, not least, broker than broke. Some afternoons a person just wants to rent Die Hard, close the curtains, and have Cheerios for lunch.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743243803, Paperback)

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 stories 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 book, capturing Vowell's memorable wit and her keen social commentary.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:02 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Presents essays and social commentary on a wide range of subjects, themes, icons, and historical moments, such as Teddy Roosevelt, Canadian Mounties, Buffy and the Vampire Slayer, the Gettysburg Adress, and George W. Bush's inauguration.

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