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Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

Assassination Vacation (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Sarah Vowell

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3,7851361,375 (4.03)195
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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Showing 1-5 of 136 (next | show all)
Sarah Vowell is a nerdy history buff. Some might consider me nerdy as well, but I am far, far from a history buff. Typically the only type of history book that I can get through is one of historical fiction, where the author can get away with some embellishments while telling a good story. But I'd heard good things about Sarah Vowell, so I tried this one, in which Vowell elaborates on the assassinations of three American Presidents: Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. Most everyone knows something about Lincoln's assassination, but Garfield's & McKinley's deaths are more obscure.

I read this on audio (read by the author), and while Vowell's distinctive-sounding voice initially grated on my nerves, I soon came to appreciate her wit & deadpan humor, and now I can't imagine it being read by anyone but herself. Not only did I enjoy learning about these particular bits of history, but I now want to get in my car and go travel to all of the well-known and not-so-well-known locations that Vowell described in her book. I think I sincerely have a new appreciation for all of those roadside signs and plaques memorializing such moments in history -- plaques which I previously tended to glance over quickly without much thought.

This particular book of Vowell's seems to be one of her best, based on other reviews, but I intend to seek out her others as well. Audio format recommended! ( )
  indygo88 | Oct 12, 2016 |
Really loved the enthusiasm Sarah Vowell has for finding historical trivia, oddities, and markers related to the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley -- including trips to hometowns, assassination sites, and cemeteries. Lots of humor and interesting tidbits, as well as insights looking back on these tragic murders that occurred all within several decades ... and all of which Lincoln's son, Richard Todd Lincoln was close by! Written during George W.'s war in Iraq, Vowell also expresses her displeasure with the then-current president, which I did not mind since I agree with her stance/assessment. ( )
  Randall.Hansen | Jun 24, 2016 |
Sarah Vowell gets points for producing this audiobook, for reading it, for hiring out various presidential voices to big names like Stephen King, Dave Eggers, Dan Handler (Lemony Snickett), etc., and for just being good old weird, funny, literate and strange Sarah Vowell. Add more points for really cool facts about our three assassinated-before-1910 presidents: Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. Kennedy gets the old short shrift at the end, but then who really needs to know more about JFK's murder when you've got Oliver Stone on Netflix?

Here are a few random and fun facts:

1) Lincoln most likely died laughing. Here's why: John Wilkes Booth, a famous actor (undoubtedly rococo and Jon Lovitzianly thespian; an ACTOR!) of his day, knew by heart the play Lincoln and his missus were in attendance to and watching; and so he timed his trigger pull to correspond with one of the play's tried-n-true laugh lines, all the better to cover his derringer's report. So much for small mercies.

2) Garfield's assassain, Charles Guiteau, lived for a time in the upstate New York Oneida Religious community. As fun facts go, this may seem unexceptional. Just you wait. The Oneida Religious community was a religious 'free-love' commune. That is, members lived in a state of open community marriage, termed 'complex marriage,' where every man was betrothed to every woman, and vice-versa. There's actually quite a bit to write here, but in light of Goodreads's family-friendly tone, I'll simply direct the inquisitive to Wikipedia for further light and knowledge. Free-love commune or no, the Oneidans weren't a bunch of lounge-about hippies; they worked Amishly hard, and shared all their labors' fruits. Furthermore, they had proscriptions against drinking and using profanity. They attended church every Sunday. They held community "feedback" sessions wherein a community member was chosen at random for the rest of the community to give "feedback" to. E.g.: "You chew your food too loudly." "Your breath stinketh." "You aren't devout enough." "You talk too much about North Virginia." Etc. All of which is to say, the Oneida community was an exacting but loving community; remarkably tolerant and accepting of others. Here's where Guiteau comes back in our picture. Guiteau, barking crazy even on his best days, by all accounts a very annoying person, member of a free-love community, this same Guiteau never, um, 'got any.' Vowell points out that conjugal relations, even in open marriages, maybe even especially in open marriages, are still /consensual/ relations. More evidence that Guiteau was a thorn in the communal Oneida side: his nickname was "Gitout" (i.e.,"Git Out"). Guiteau also seemed to get picked 'it' for community feedback night more often than others. Which all foregoing (and hopefully fun) facts should underscore this one final fact: Guiteau lived with the Oneidans for FIVE WHOLE YEARS; rather, they kept him on-board for five whole years. Pretty amazing stuff.
3) The Oneida community later folded as a communal-in-all-possible-ways community and began instead selling fine china. They are today one of the nation's biggest purveyors of fine china.

In conclusion: as with the Harry Potter series, this is a book to listen to, not to read. ( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
This is a good book for those who are heavily interested in American history, especially with the political aspects; also, if you're interested in Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley in particular.

Be warned though, Sarah Vowell does not hold back her personal opinions on many matters (including the Republican party and George W. Bush). ( )
  ShayLRoss | Mar 16, 2016 |
Not as good as I expected, I got kind of bored. ( )
  thukpa | Feb 6, 2016 |
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:50 -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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