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

by Sarah Vowell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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» See also 245 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 131 (next | show all)
I wish I could remember why this was on my to-read list.

Anyhow, it was a good airplane read. Interesting historical stuff told in a humorous and modern writing style. I was kind of waiting for her to elaborate on the thesis she states quite early about how Puritanical thought has affected U.S. politics, but she doesn't really build that up any further, though there are some other asides about it. All in all it was a bit dull in the middle, and more meandering than I would've liked (particularly, she jumps around in time a lot for no apparent reason, and doesn't really tie the disparate threads of the book together). Plus the constant switching between past and present tense was jarring.

Anyhow, pleasant enough to read, and I learned some stuff, so it wasn't a complete waste of time or anything. ( )
  wirehead | Sep 3, 2018 |
A histroy klesson, but the teacher is too smart for me! Supposed to be funny, but i found it a bit dry and somewhat hard to follow. My lack of American History knowledge, and impatience with religious intolerance and dogma was also an impediment!

She was really funny on The Colbert Report! ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
I enjoyed it but it wasn't anywhere as good as her previous books. Missing lot of her off beat humor that I have come to love. ( )
  CSDaley | Mar 28, 2018 |
As in Assassination Vacation, Vowell sprinkles into her historical account of the settling of Boston in 1640 her opinions about current events, which in the case of when The Wordy Shipmates was published, means George W. Bush. Her comparisons would have more weight if her disdain for current events did not show through so clearly. I say this speaking from the same side of the aisle as she. At any rate, I’m not sure if it is comforting or disturbing to realize some of our more base American instincts have been in evidence since the Puritans. ( )
  MelissaLenhardt | Mar 11, 2018 |
Gotta ADORE a brilliant smart-ass: "Protestantism's evolution away from hierarchy and authority has enormous consequences for America and the world. On the one hand, the democratization of religion runs parallel to political democratization. The king of England, questioning the pope, inspires English subjects to question the king and his Anglican bishops. Such dissent is backed up by a Bible full of handy Scripture arguing for arguing with one's king. This is the root of self-government in the English-speaking world.

On the other hand, Protestantism's shedding away of authority, as evidenced by my mother's proclamation that I needn't go to church or listen to a preacher to achieve salvation, 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."

Sarah Vowell is always an enjoyment to read. Articulate, funny, sarcastic, smart...all the makings of a great commentator of things historical and political. ( )
  Christina_E_Mitchell | Sep 9, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 131 (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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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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