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The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

The Wordy Shipmates (2008)

by Sarah Vowell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
I couldn't get past page 26! I've enjoyed hearing Sarah on the radio (on This American Life, talking about her high school band days) and her voice is irresistible, but the tone and style that sounded so charming didn't work for me when it comes to history. Maybe I should have started with Assassination Vacation. ( )
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
This wittily told, VERY thorough, history of 17th century puritan migration and settlement in Massachusetts kept me listening. Author, [a:Sarah Vowell|2122|Sarah Vowell|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1297911965p2/2122.jpg], reads much of her own work in the audio production which also features many other voice actors.

Here's a link to a National Post bookcast by Vowell on the Shipmates.

And here's a Simon and Schuster video of her discussing the book.

This trip back in time will take you to a place where how a person articulates their religious belief actually concerns their neighbors enough that they may literally find themselves out in the cold if the way they synch up their theology, behavior, and earnest dialogue doesn't satisfy.

Vowell doesn't shirk from gathering up all the strands of the story, from sources far and wide, public and personal, letting them out, mostly chronologically and tying them back together again for us so we finally take a good look at the politics, theology, government, land and conflicts that make this period of history such a difficult one to anchor in the story of the united states.

Sound too serious? It's not. Vowell elevates your education about the Puritans' and their relationship with the native americans starting with paper head-dresses in elementary school and progressing through a few select episodes of Scooby-Do, Bewitched, and Happy Days, up to the present day. And that approach itself is unique enough to make you think twice about the Puritans which is more than I would have found myself doing if it weren't for Vowell taking up this subject in the first place.

At one point she writes: "Protestantism's evolution away from hierarchy and authority has enormous consequences for America and the world . . . On the other hand, Protestantism's shedding away of authority . . . inspires self reliance - along with a dangerous disregard for expertise. So the impulse that leads to democracy can also be the downside of democracy - namely a suspicion of people who know what they are talking about. It's why in U.S. presidential elections the American people will elect a wisecracking good ol' boy who's fun in a malt shop instead of a serious thinker who actually knows some of the pompous, brainy stuff that might actually get fewer people laid off or killed. "

Which ironically explains and also reminds me of another quote I like here on good reads: "America is a land where a citizen will cross the ocean to fight for democracy - and wont cross the street to vote in a national election. "

If that's all true, Vowell's history goes some amount of the way toward explaining how we got that way!

( )
  nkmunn | Nov 17, 2018 |
I struggled with this book. It is more like an overlong blog post about the the author's thoughts inspired by some historical writings, rather than a book about history. I like history because there is a definite story to follow, characters and motivations of the time and its people to discover. This book does not present a story until the second half. The first part mainly consists of analysis of John Winthrop's writings, mostly a sermon that may or may not have been delivered on the Arbella; its impact and use of by Reagan, Reagan's funeral, several annoying tangents about TV shows, one of which has been quickly cancelled (for good reason), nephews and skateboards and the whole ADHD gamut. Some of these thoughts are interesting and thought provoking, others are plain annoying. The story between them becomes hard to follow. I became so frustrated that I almost quit. However the second part of the book was better composed - more history, less tangents, and the tangents were more relevant. This second half brought the book to thre stars up from two. ( )
  Gezemice | Oct 29, 2018 |
In the Wordy Shipmates, Sarah Vowell takes on the Pilgrims, exploring their migration to America and delving into John Winthrop's role as one of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

This is the second Sarah Vowell book I've read. I did both on audio and though I was enchanted by the previous one I read (Assassination Vacation), this one fell flat for me. It seemed to lack cohesion and purpose, wandering sort of aimlessly, and thus, I found my mind doing the same. I really couldn't recap this book if I tried. I suspect this was partially due to the subject matter, which didn't particularly appeal to me. However, based on my previous Sarah Vowell experience, I was expecting her charm & deadpan humor to carry me through the duller portions, but that didn't really happen this time around. I was just waiting for it to end. Had I not been reading this on audio, where her quirky voice has a strange appeal, I may very well have bailed on this one. I'm hoping this is one of her weakest books, because I've got a few more on my shelf and I'm not quite ready to give up on her yet. ( )
  indygo88 | Oct 16, 2018 |
I didn't expect to find pilgrims so interesting! I listened to this book while trying to stave off absolute boredom at a mind-numbing job -- I've been reading it (re-reading it?) off and on in the month since, because I remember things that I've read better than things I've only heard (especially if I'm listening while doing other things). The author makes interesting connections between the Puritans and modern America, and illuminates a number of misconceptions about what the Puritans actually believed and wrote about themselves. Sometimes, they were better than the vague ideas I'd picked up from school and wider culture; sometimes, they were worse. But they were always more nuanced and interesting.

The audio version is fantastic - the various excerpts by historical characters were all voiced by different actors, while Vowell herself provides the main narration. (While author-readers are not always a great idea, this one has a background in radio.) ( )
  akaGingerK | Sep 30, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
Maybe there's something to be said for learning about the pilgrims, after all—especially from an instructor as entertaining as Vowell.
added by sduff222 | editBitch Magazine, Kelsey Wallace (Mar 28, 2011)
As always with Vowell, her commentary is apt and frequently, startlingly
insightful. I would suggest that this book might well be used as
a sort of introductory text to the ideas of the Puritans particularly for
undergraduates. Because she engages so cleverly with popular culture,
it may help provide a successful approach to the dense and highly
intellectualized writing of this group of Puritans. For the nonspecialist
in this period, the book could serve as a reminder of what continues to
be so fascinating about the ideas of the New England Puritans of the
seventeenth century and the impact their thought continues to have in
popular discourse.
added by sduff222 | editReviews in Religion and Theology, Mary Coleman (Sep 1, 2009)
Sarah Vowell is a problem. She’s a problem like Sarah Palin, Cyndi Lauper and Kathy Griffin. She’s annoying. Or, really, she’s double-annoying, because she styles herself as annoying — provocative-annoying — and if you become annoyed by her you seem to be conceding the point. She’s gotten to you.

Take “The Wordy Shipmates,” her fifth book. Vowell has integrated her sarcasm, flat indie-girl affect and kitsch worship — refined in print and on public radio — into a pop history of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Known for her adenoid-helium voice, Vowell is a genial talker but an undisciplined writer. This new book mixes jiggers of various weak liquors — paraphrase, topical one-liners, blogger tics — and ends up tasting kind of festive but bad, like Long Island iced tea.
Drawing on letters, essays, and sermons, Vowell offers a penetrating look at the tensions between John Winthrop, John Cotton, Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, and others as they argued about the role of religion in government and everyday life. They saw themselves as God's chosen people, a credo that set the tone for American history and notions of manifest destiny that have led to all manner of imposition on other lands and cultures. But they also vehemently debated separation of church and state and founded Harvard, even as they pondered the destiny of what Winthrop referred to as the "shining city on the hill "A book dense with detail, insight, and humor.
added by sduff222 | editBooklist, Vanessa Bush (Oct 1, 2008)
At times dense, at times silly, at times surpassingly wise.
added by sduff222 | editKirkus Reviews (Aug 1, 2008)

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sarah Vowellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dzama, MarcelIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laroche, NicoleDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Levinthal, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seow, JackieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, Jeffrey L.Map artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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But oh! shipmates! on the starboard hand of every woe, there is a sure delight. . . Delight is to him whose strong arms yet support him, when the ship of this base treacherous world has gone down beneath him. Delight is to him, who gives no quarter in the truth, and kills, burns, and destroys all sin though he pluck it out from under the robes of Senators and Judges. Delight, —top-gallant delight is to him, who acknowledges no law or lord, but the Lord his God, and is only a patriot to heaven.

—Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
For Scott Seeley, Ted Thompson, and Joan Kim
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The only thing more dangerous than an idea is a belief. And by dangerous I don't mean thought-provoking. I mean: might get people killed.
I'm always disappointed when I see the word "Puritan" tossed around as shorthand for a bunch of generic, boring, stupid, judgmental killjoys. Because to me, they are very specific, fascinating, sometimes brilliant, judgmental killjoys who rarely agreed on anything except that Catholics are going to hell.
Behind every bad law, a deep fear.
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From the author of the "New York Times" bestseller "Assassination Vacation" comes an examination of the Puritans, their covenant communities, deep-rooted idealism, political and cultural relevance, and their myriad oddities.To this day, America views itself as a Puritan nation, but author Vowell investigates what that means--and what it should mean. What was this great political enterprise all about? Who were these people who are considered the philosophical, spiritual, and moral ancestors of our nation? What Vowell discovers is something far different from what their uptight shoe-buckles-and-corn reputation might suggest. The people she finds are highly literate, deeply principled, and surprisingly feisty. Their story is filled with pamphlet feuds, witty courtroom dramas, and bloody vengeance.--From publisher description.… (more)

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