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Assassination Vacation (2005)

by Sarah Vowell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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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.

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Showing 1-5 of 148 (next | show all)
Sarah is my new favorite author. Funny, quirky book about the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. ( )
  addunn3 | Jan 8, 2022 |
This audiobook was fun, quick, and full of information. The author/narrator has a quirky personality and is a great storyteller. She gives history an attitude and her interest and curiosity is contagious. This book is not only full of history and facts but is also humorous and reflective. Definitely recommend for anyone interested in presidents, assassinations, weird facts, or a quick read. Kind of reminds me of Drunk History on Comedy Central but more historically accurate.

Not sure how the actual book would come across but the audiobook was great and very easy to listen to and follow. ( )
  ToriC90 | Oct 4, 2021 |
this was parts humorous, parts informative. there's a surprising amount i don't know about presidential history. not just the lesser-known presidents (but really, why are they lesser known?) but i even realized how little i knew of lincoln's assassination - not the details in the theater, but the confederate conspiracy and all the other names of the people involved (that i've already mostly forgotten). so mostly this was interesting. it's also always interesting (and completely tragic) to read about, even in passing, how badly george w bush was performing as president, and how we thought he was the worst president ever, and how we have so far surpassed that with trump. (but also how probably he didn't hold a candle to andrew jackson or andrew johnson - for issues of race in particular - and i'm sure there are others i don't know enough about.)

anyway, interesting and amusing, written well enough, but nothing too special. ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Jul 7, 2021 |
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. You would not think that a vacation to visit sites pertinent to the assassinations of Lincoln, McKinley and Garfield would be particularly interesting or even funny, but Vowell has such a quirky personality that this memoir about such a trip reads like a slightly askew historical romp. It begins with her B & B overnight stay after seeing “Assassins”, a Broadway musical on tour concerning presidential assassinations. She then visits Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois where she comments on the intensity of the colors of the reproduced wallpapers. She is scared by a snake in a cemetery in nearby Geneva, FL where lies buried the rather “hunky” Lewis Powell, a conspirator in Lincoln’s assassination. She head to Garfield’s home and relates his months-long, agonizing death in the White House that changed a vigorous, intelligent man into a weak shell of his former self, and she describes Teddy Roosevelt’s midnight careening carriage ride down an Adirondack mountainside to a railhead where he could travel by train to take the oath of office after McKinley’s death. Not to be missed is Sarah’s boat trip to a damp, unhealthy brick fortress in the Dry Tortugas off the FL coast where Dr. Samuel Mudd was imprisoned.
Chock full of familiar and unfamiliar important historical sites, additional travel flavor is added by Sarah’s sister who does the driving since Vowell doesn’t drive, and Vowell’s young nephew Owen who adds his share of whining or glee, depending on the site and whether he is tired or not. .
This book made me a fan of all of Vowell’s books – she knows her history, her art, and the societies she studies. Her books are perceptive with an endearing wry humor. If you get the compact disc book copy which she herself reads aloud, she also invites actor friends to read historical quotes by the assassins. The poem written by Garfield assassin, Charles Guiteau, “I am going to the Lordy” is particularly weird and just a little bit scary! ( )
1 vote Epiphany-OviedoELCA | Jun 23, 2021 |
It's hard to imagine that a book about history - specifically the history of assassinated presidents - could be considered entertaining, let alone funny. But in her typical polished but quirky style, Sarah Vowell manages to present us with yet another tour de force of historical trivia, one that is funnier than The Partly Cloudy Patriot, and somehow more reverential at the same time.

Published in 2005, the book is part memoir and part rambling textbook, covering her various travels (what she sees somewhat as a pilgrimmage) to walk in the steps of famous and infamous people leading up to the assassinations of Presidents Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley and James Garfield. Whether the footsteps she is following are those of Czolgosz, John Wilkes Booth, or Abraham Lincoln himself, you can be assured that there will be a good story to tell.

This is an easy-to-read book, that has some poignant moments (especially considering the life of Robert Todd Lincoln) and some hilarious moments. I literally laughed out loud, and Vowell seems to ensure at least one quip, joke or funny aside appears on every page. Still, the humor comes naturally and never seems too forced.

Probably the best part of her books is most succinctly presented here, with Vowell unashamedly showing her reverence for history, presidents, and the troubled travels through American politics. She is a true patriot, one that does not take facts blindly but seeks to find the story behind the scenes, and then to describe it to her readers in concise, often eye-opening ways. Readers find themselves learning without feeling like they are in a classroom. She presents standard facts but also some that clearly required some specialized research.

Her voice is a unique one, and one that is an enjoyable companion, whether you are reading at the beach, on a trip, or in your armchair. Even when she is not talking history, her accounts of her travels, dragging her sister, nephew and various other people to seemingly anti-climactic meccas, and her off-kilter thoughts on the political process make for a fun read.

For your enjoyment, some quotes from the opening pages:

"I was there to visit Chesterwood, the house and studio once belonging to Daniel Chester French, the artist responsible for the Abraham Lincoln sculpture in the Lincoln Memorial. A nauseating four-hour bus ride from the Port Authority terminal just to see the room where some patriotic chiseler came up with a marble statue? For some reason, none of my friends wanted to come with."

"I understand why other people would want to stay in B&Bs. They're pretty. They're personal. They're "quaint," a polite way of saying "no TV." They are "romantic," i.e., every object large enough for a flower to be printed on it is going to have a flower printed on it. They're "cozy," meaning that a guest has to keep her belongings on the floor because every conceivable flat surface is covered in knickknacks, except for the one knickknack she longs for, a remote control."

"It's one of the few perks of assassination. In death, you get upgraded into a saint no matter how much people hated you in life."

"Once I knew my dead presidents and I had become insufferable, I started to censor myself. There were a lot of get-togethers with friends where I didn't hear half of what was being said because I was sitting there, silently chiding myself, Don't bring up McKinley. Don't bring up McKinley."

"A pilgrimage needs a destination. For medieval Christians, that was usually the cathedral of Saint James in northern Spain. This tour of the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley ends up at the Lincoln Memorial because that's where I'm always ending up. "

In addition, here is a link to the author reading an excerpt from Assassination Vacation on NPR (you may recognize her voice from This American Life and as Violet from The Incredibles):

( )
1 vote irrelephant | Feb 21, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 148 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sarah Vowellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dzama, MarcelIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eggers, DaveNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keener, CatherineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
King, StephenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Levinthal, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Brien, ConanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Olender, JeanetteDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stewart, JonNarratorsecondary 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 Rufus  Magnificent Corpses
"The real Lincoln exists in my mind," Pris said.
  I was astonished. "You don't believe that. What do you mean by saying that? You mean that you have the idea in your mind."
  She cocked her head on one side and eyed me. "No, Louis. I really have Lincoln in my mind. And I've been working night after night to transfer him out of my mind, back into the outside world."

Philip K. Dick  We Can Build You
That's what writing is. You're keeping people alive in your head.

Carl Reiner
In memory of Carlile Vowell (1904–1995)
Grandfather, principal, history teacher, Muskogee County commissioner, wiseacre, and Democrat. What I wouldn't give to hear him cuss that a book about three Republicans has been dedicated in his name.
First words
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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Disambiguation notice
Please do not combine the abridged audiobook of Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation with the unabridged full text of that work. Thank you.
Publisher's editors
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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.

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