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Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

Assassination Vacation (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Sarah Vowell

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3,6051241,460 (4.04)187
Title:Assassination Vacation
Authors:Sarah Vowell
Info:Simon & Schuster (2006), Paperback, 258 pages
Collections:Your library

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Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell (2005)


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I found this quite hard to follow, partially due to my complete ignorance of American history and partially because the book is written in a fairly 'stream of consciousness' style. ( )
  cazfrancis | Mar 20, 2015 |
I am about two thirds of my way through this one. Borrowed this book from a friend that highly recommended it as something that he thought I would enjoy. My initial impression of the author and her writing style is she is an impudent, erudite, febrile poster child of the liberal gum chewing American teenager. She bounces all over the place in her stream of conscience style narrative and frequently throws out random trivia that has nothing to do with the subject at hand. I think she would be a hoot to travel with her random facts and very different view point.
She does point out she gave up Christianity and religion and in its place she has adopted American patriotism.
She does show she lacks some understanding of the differences between how culture and society in past times differed dramatically from the present. That takes a lot of immersive study to get a hold of so I don’t really hold that against her a great deal but some of her conclusions about people might have been different had she had a fuller understanding of their times. It is so tempting though to judge the past through our present mores and standards because that is what we are so used to doing.

This was more entertainment than history though I must admit the last half was pretty interesting as she talked about several people and incidents I was not familiar with.
( )
  Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
This was a re-read for me. I adore Sarah Vowell and this is one of my favorites. I laughed out loud when she explained the 'grandfather paradox'. ( )
  Willow1972 | Feb 8, 2015 |
I loved this book. I listened to the audio version, which has the added advantage of Ms. Vowell's voice and flat expression to add to her writing. She writes of American history with an original, interesting perspective. ( )
  baobab | Jan 23, 2015 |
Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation skims across the surface of history by taking the reader on third-party tours of historic sites. The book focuses on the assassinations of presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley, but almost all of it is about Lincoln. (In my paperback, Lincoln gets 98 pages, Garfield gets 62, and McKinley gets 46.) Which may be fair--there are probably a lot more sites to visit related to Lincoln's life and death than anyone else's. But if you're looking for a history lesson on any of these men, this is not the book for you.

Lincoln gets not only the most real estate in the book, but he also get the most sentiment. The author begins by catching a play at Ford Threatre and walking down to the Lincoln Memorial afterward. She admires the monument and reflects on the meaning of Lincoln's words engraved on the walls. She draws comparisons to modern history and thinks about how Lincoln's actions and death have influenced our world. From here, she gives a brief account of Lincoln's assassination and the actions leading up to it, interspersed with conversations with tour guides. The tour guides seem to be authorities on the little patches of land that they represent, but Vowell doesn't cite any other sources and doesn't mention fact checking anything these first-name-only guides say.

Vowell does find some pretty obscure Lincoln sites to visit. She goes to his home, the place of his assassination, the house where John Wilkes Booth stopped after fleeing, even the prison where that house's owner was condemned, and many other places. But the information she gleans is all pretty shallow. Even in the "I didn't know that!" moments, I felt hesitation, like I needed to Google it before telling anyone else about it.

When she moves onto Garfield, the biggest point she makes is, "Who cares about Garfield?!" I actually just read a wonderful and in-depth biography of Garfield, so my response was a full-throated, "I do!" This was the most frustrating section for me because I have a higher-than-average knowledge and appreciation of Garfield after reading Destiny of the Republic, and Assassination Vacation brings no new information to the table. In fact, it's so scant on details, that if you can name Garfield's assassin off the top of your head, then you probably don't have much to learn here.

The Garfield section blends directly into the McKinley section so quickly I didn't realize we were done with Garfield yet. I don't know nearly as much about McKinley as I do about Garfield (or Lincoln), but I still thought this section was too light. Maybe the nation was so exhausted by the time McKinley was assassinated that they didn't feel it necessary to dedicate a bunch of tourist sites to him? Maybe. That would explain why this section is so short and light.

Sarah Vowell can be very funny (and, yes, a bit humble-braggy), and some of the characters she encounters on the way are quite interesting. But this is neither a history book nor a biography, despite being shelved that way.
This is a travelogue or a humorous travel memoir. It reveals a lot more about the author than about any of the presidents, and I think the author's larger point has more to do with the quirks of American culture anyway. I think if you know that going in, you'll probably like this book--especially if you have a plane trip or beach vacation coming up. It's light, at times silly, and very softly macabre, but it's not historic. ( )
  JLSmither | Dec 21, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sarah Vowellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dzama, MarcelIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Levinthal, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Olender, JeanetteDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the Middle Ages, relics spawned a continentwide craze. Devotees packed their bags and streamed out of towns and villages, thronging the pilgrimage trails. For most, a journey to see the relic of St. Thomas or St. James offered the only valid excuse for leaving home. -Anneli Rufu Magnificent Corpses
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One night last summer, all the killers in my head assembled on a stage in Massachusetts to sing show tunes.
Going to Ford's Theatre to watch the play is like going to Hooters for the food.
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Please do not combine the abridged audiobook of Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation with the unabridged full text of that work. Thank you.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 074326004X, Paperback)

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 all kinds of lighter diversions along the way into the lives of the three presidents and their assassins, including mummies, show tunes, mean-spirited totem poles, and a nineteenth-century biblical sex cult.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:51 -0400)

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A tour of key historic sites in America where incidents of political violence have occurred reveals lesser-known points of interest pertaining to each and shares information about how history has been shaped by popular culture and tourism.

(summary from another edition)

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