Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrumsof 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.
Sarah Vowell, the NPR commentator with a childlike voice, provides an engaging tour of historic sites associated with presidential assassinations. While searching for meaning among the brutal and sometimes banal events surrounding the deaths of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley, Vowell takes some wacky digressions; at one historic site, a Bermuda shorts-clad tourist resembling John Wilkes Booth bangs out a version of "Lean on Me" on an ancient piano. More than a history lesson, Vowel's work looks at how men of violence have forced themselves upon history, changing the course of politics and power. Audiobook listeners get serious bang for their buck, including guest appearances by Stephen King (as Lincoln), Jon Stewart, Conan O'Brien, and Eric Bogosian, among others. The soundtrack by Michael Giacchino deserves a disc of its own. R.W.S. © AudioFile 2005, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine