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The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
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The Wordy Shipmates (2008)

by Sarah Vowell

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Showing 1-5 of 124 (next | show all)
Some interesting stuff here for someone who doesn't know the history. Told in Vowell's breezy style. However, she often strays far from the story by trying to be a little to cute. Ultimately that detracts from the text. ( )
  ghefferon | Nov 27, 2016 |
Ok, I'm a bleedin' heart polyamorous atheist myself - but the ideology in this book was so far left, so biased, that it made me have to work hard to find nuggets of actual history here.  But wait, most of that history was so overwritten with lame attempts at humor, faddish pop culture references and elliptical paragraphs and omission of chapter breaks that I had to work hard just to figure out who was on which team.  I *think* Vowell actually convinced me of a few things she didn't mean to even say....  There's a quotation on the back by the LA Times Book Review:  Sarah Vowell is a Madonna of Americana."  What does that actually mean?  I say it means the same thing most of the pages of this book do: nothing." ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
I was introduced to Sarah Vowell on the radio program, This American Life. I always found her particular take on historic events to be interesting and thought-provoking.

However, I was disappointed with this book. Her personality did not come through in the writing in the manner that I might have hoped, and, as an American Studies graduate, this examination of the Puritans did not offer any insights into their thoughts that I felt I didn't already know.

However, I wouldn't want this review to stop anyone from reading this book--it was well-written, and carefully and thoroughly researched. I just felt as if it covered territory I was already overly familiar with. ( )
  magerber | Feb 22, 2016 |
In this presidential election year, it is assured we will hear lots of talk about our founding fathers and the concerns that brought our ancestors to this country. But how many of us really know about their beliefs and ideals? I must confess that my own knowledge is sadly lacking. Yes, I took American History classes in elementary, junior high, high school, and college. But those classes only skimmed the surface, and presented a very sanitized version of our country’s birth. And I’ll be brutally honest, even though I love history, I was more concerned with socializing and partying in my school years.

All this talk of “American values” and what our founding fathers really meant, has made me determined to dig deeper into our country’s origins. And nobody makes history fun and relevant like Sarah Vowell. Earlier, I reviewed her book Assassination Vacation, and immediately moved on to The Wordy Shipmates which tells about the John Winthrop and the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The Puritans of Massachusetts Bay Colony differed from their fellow Puritans on the Mayflower. The Mayflower Puritans (separatists) wanted complete separation from the Church of England, which they deemed too Catholic. The Puritans of Massachusetts (reformists) did not want to abandon their brothers and sisters in the Church of England. They hoped to reform the church from the inside out. However, both groups agreed on one thing: The Pope was the “whore of Babylon”. Who knew?

These two groups of Puritan pilgrims came separately to the United States, the separatists on the Mayflower and later, the reformists on the Arabella. The group on the Mayflower may be more famous, but the group in Massachusetts had more impact on our country. They were prolific writers, readers, and communicators, never missing a chance to proclaim their beliefs and opinions. Winthrop’s Model of Christian Charity sermon is still well-known today, and has been quoted by both President Reagan and President Kennedy. In it he describes the new colony as a “city on a hill” whose light cannot be hidden. He also encourages the colonists to love and provide for each other.

But things were not always peace, love, and harmony in Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Puritans had their fair share drama. They argued loudly and frequently about matters of theology and morality, and sometimes people were banished from church and colony. Such was the fate of Roger Williams. We know Roger Williams as a pioneer of the separation of church and state. But to John Winthrop and the Massachusetts Bay church, he was a cantankerous pain in the ass. His ideas were both conservative and liberal at the same time, and they did not coincide with other church leaders. Williams consistently and publicly argued with the church and eventually they banished him. He left to found a community in Rhode Island where people were free to worship as they pleased.

Williams unwaveringly believed that the protestant church was the only way to heaven and salvation. However, he did not believe that it should ever be forced on anyone. He strongly believed that people should be allowed to worship as they wished. His insistence on the separation of church and state was not to keep the church out of the government, but rather, to keep the government out of the church. Sarah Vowell describes him as “hard to like, but easy to love.” After reading this book, I agree.

As with her other audio books, Vowell narrates this one with the addition of special guests. I love her books, but I love listening to them even more. Her narration (and that of the special guests), is excellent. You can hear and feel how much she loves this nation and cares about its history.

Even if you are not a history buff, I highly recommend this book. I think in this time of election, readers will find it interesting and more relevant than ever. ( )
  asoutherngirlreads | Feb 17, 2016 |
Funny ( )
  mgriel | Jan 18, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 124 (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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Epigraph
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
Dedication
For Scott Seeley, Ted Thompson, and Joan Kim
First words
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.
Quotations
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.… (more)

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