February 25, 2008
Some of the negative reviews on Amazon say that Sarah Vowell's writing is self-absorbed. As a blogger, heh, I live self-absorbed. I assume that people are going to want to listen to my talk of knitted monkey toes and reproductive health. So that didn't bother me at all; I found her voice charming and her style to be engaging. I also loved learning about the Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley assassinations. There were so many great tidbits in this book, and I came away knowing a lot more about the life and death of those three presidents. I also learned touching info like the fact that Ida McKinley sewed a picture of her dead husband into her knitting bag, a bag which is on display in the McKinley museum in Canton, Ohio. Now that I can relate to, that brought Ida McKinley to life for me.
I loved this book, save for the fact that Sarah Vowell has the worst case of Bush Derangement Syndrome I've seen in a long time. She can't talk about any of these assassinations without mentioning Guantanamo Bay, Rumsfeld, Abu Ghraib, etc. These tangential rants were a huge distraction in an otherwise charming book. And I mean a huge distraction. She starts out the book by sympathizing with the assassins themselves because she hates Bush so much, but quickly says that she doesn't want Bush assassinated because that would turn him into a saint. My lord. She also manages to claim that these three assassinated presidents pretty much got what was coming to them because they were Republicans. No word on JFK though.
I mean, seriously, what are you supposed to do when you come across the idea that the author feels sorry for Bill Brady but not for Ronald Reagan? Ouch.
The book could've been the perfect story of one woman's obsession with following in the footsteps of slain presidents, visiting the historical sites and marveling at the relics. Instead she turns a perfectly good book into a dated rant about the Iraq war. She made her own book irrelevant by forever linking it to 2004. It's her right to ruin her book like that, but dang. Does anyone really want to hear her liken Teddy Roosevelt to Paul Wolfowitz? Or compare Dr. Mudd's prison sentence to Gitmo? Sheesh, give it a rest.
So I don't know what I think of this book. I loved the pages where she managed to restrict her thoughts to the 19th century. But when she wandered, boy howdy did she wander. Blech.
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