April 10, 2010

The Wordy Shipmates

I'm supposed to be reading This American Life contributor Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation for my book group this month but they didn't have it at the library so I got this instead.  I'll get around to the other one because I just love her style.  It'll be ok.  My book group meets at my favorite pub so they're a pretty laid back group.

If only my high school history books had been like this, I would have eaten the subject up rather than snoozing through.  History made fun and readable: what a concept!

Vowell takes up the subject of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the influence of the ideas of John Winthrop and Roger Williams upon our country for both better and worse.

She's frankly hilarious and scathingly witty, but doesn't treat these subjects lightly.  She respects the good ideas and writings, and is unafraid to excoriate the intolerant and bad.  John Winthrop is both embraced for writing some of the most beautiful and inspiring sentences in the English language and held at a distance for inspiring the dangerous idea of American exceptionalism.  Roger Williams is ridiculed for some of his narrow-minded and dogmatic religious ideas but praised for his staunch belief that violence (at least against other white men) was never the answer and that the separation of church and state is essential for both.

Highly recommended.

I'll definitely be getting her other books.  Who could resist the idea of Assasination Vacation: A field trip to all of the sites of presidential assassination sites.  Wheee!

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