Synopses & Reviews
The Wordy Shipmates
is New York Times
?bestselling author Sarah Vowell?s exploration of the Puritans and their journey to America to become the people of John Winthrop?s ?city upon a hill??a shining example, a ?city that cannot be hid.?
To this day, America views itself as a Puritan nation, but 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. Along the way she asks:
* Was Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop a communitarian, a Christlike Christian, or conformity?s tyrannical enforcer? Answer: Yes!
* Was Rhode Island?s architect, Roger Williams, America?s founding freak or the father of the First Amendment? Same difference.
* What does it take to get that jezebel Anne Hutchinson to shut up? A hatchet.
* What was the Puritans? pet name for the Pope? The Great Whore of Babylon.
Sarah Vowell?s special brand of armchair history makes the bizarre and esoteric fascinatingly relevant and fun. She takes us from the modern-day reenactment of an Indian massacre to the Mohegan Sun casino, from old-timey Puritan poetry, where ?righteousness? is rhymed with ?wilderness,? to a Mayflower-themed waterslide. Throughout, The Wordy Shipmates is rich in historical fact, humorous insight, and social commentary by one of America?s most celebrated voices. Thou shalt enjoy it.
"Essayist and public radio regular Vowell (Assassination Vacation) revisits America's Puritan roots in this witty exploration of the ways in which our country's present predicaments are inextricably tied to its past. In a style less colloquial than her previous books, Vowell traces the 1630 journey of several key English colonists and members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Foremost among these men was John Winthrop, who would become governor of Massachusetts. While the Puritans who had earlier sailed to Plymouth on the Mayflower were separatists, Winthrop's followers remained loyal to England, spurred on by Puritan Reverend John Cotton's proclamation that they were God's chosen people. Vowell underscores that the seemingly minute differences between the Plymouth Puritans and the Massachusetts Puritans were as meaningful as the current Sunni/Shia Muslim rift. Gracefully interspersing her history lesson with personal anecdotes, Vowell offers reflections that are both amusing (colonial history lesson via The Brady Bunch) and tender (watching New Yorkers patiently waiting in line to donate blood after 9/11)." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Vowell argues passionately that Puritans were as enamored of wisdom and knowledge as religious virtue....A book dense with detail, insight, and humor." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Fans will be pleased to see that Vowell's admittedly smart-alecky style is alive and well....At times dense, at times silly, at times surpassingly wise." Kirkus Reviews
"Vowell's insights into her subjects' meanings and motivations, combined with reflection and personal anecdotes...humanize and contextualize the famously uptight settlers, reconsidering what it means for America to be called a 'Puritan nation.' (Grade: B+)" The Onion A.V. Club
"The Wordy Shipmates is more than a punk-ish twist on our brave, verbose, tortured forebears....Subversively, Vowell teaches as she goes, and her final reflections are genuinely moving." The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"[Vowell's] a complex blend: part brilliant essayist, part pop-culture-loving comedian and a full-time unabashed history geek. The mixture makes her both proudly pointy-headed and forever entertaining."
"Sarah Vowell lends her engaging voice and keen powers of observation to a work of social history...Provid[ing] a glimpse of what life was really like for the people of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the founders of Plymouth."
-Los Angeles Times
"Vowell's words crackle on the printed page...smart, quirky and unabashedly incendiary...Vowell is very funny. She is generous as she wrestles with the moral intricacies of our nation's beginnings and how Puritan contradictions inform our sense of American exceptionalism today...The Wordy Shipmates is more than a punk-ish twist on our brave, verbose, tortured forebears, living in their new colony like 'an ashram in the woods.'"
-Cleveland Plain Dealer
"For those of us who'd rather harvest our history lessons from The Simpsons than the History Channel, Vowell is a latter-day hero...Fascinating."
"Vowell...reads history with attitude, humor and sensitivity."
"[Vowell exercises] her trademark sweet, silly, arch sense of the incongruous ways we memorialize the American past."
From the New York Times
-bestselling author of Assassination Vacation
and The Partly Cloudy Patriot
, an examination of the Puritans, their covenant communities, their deep-rooted idealism, their political and cultural relevance in today's world, and their myriad oddities.
In The Wordy Shipmates, Sarah Vowell travels once again through America's past, this time to seventeenth-century New England. From the British Library to the Mohegan Sun casino, from the nation's first synagogue to a Mayflower waterslide, Vowell studies the Puritan effect and finds their beliefs about church and state more interesting than their buckles-and-corn reputation would suggest.
Was Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop a communitarian, Christlike Christian, or conformity's tyrannical enforcer? Yes! Was Rhode Island's architect Roger Williams America's founding freak or the father of the First Amendment? Same difference. How come Henry Vane the Younger, who argued against beheading the English king, was himself beheaded for helping behead said king? Good question. What does it take to get that jezebel Anne Hutchinson to shut up? A hatchet. What was the Puritans' pet name for the Pope? The Great Whore of Babylon. What is the lesson of the Pequot War? Why, don't fire one of your military's embarrassingly few Arabic translators just because he's gay, of course.
As in all Vowell's bestselling books, this exploration of America's past is both poignant and entertaining. The Wordy Shipmates is rich with historical fact, humorous insight, and social commentary by one of America's celebrated voices.
From the New York Times-bestselling author of Assassination Vacation and The Partly Cloudy Patriot comes an examination of the Puritans, their covenant communities, their deep-rooted idealism, their political and cultural relevance in today's world, and their myriad oddities.
In this New York Times bestseller, the author of Assassination Vacation "brings the [Puritan] era wickedly to life" (Washington Post).
To this day, America views itself as a Puritan nation, but Sarah Vowell investigates what that means-and what it should mean. What she discovers is something far different from what their uptight shoebuckles- and-corn reputation might suggest-a highly literate, deeply principled, and surprisingly feisty people, whose story is filled with pamphlet feuds, witty courtroom dramas, and bloody vengeance.
Vowell takes us from the modern-day reenactment of an Indian massacre to the Mohegan Sun casino, from old-timey Puritan poetry, where "righteousness" is rhymed with "wilderness," to a Mayflower-themed waterslide. Throughout, The Wordy Shipmates is rich in historical fact, humorous insight, and social commentary by one of America's most celebrated voices.
About the Author
Sarah Vowell is the author of the bestselling Assassination Vacation, The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Take the Cannoli, and Radio On. She is a contributing editor for public radio's This American Life. She is also a McSweeney's person and the voice of teenage superhero Violet Parr in Pixar Animation Studios' The Incredibles.