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Assassination Vacationby Sarah Vowell
Leave it to Sarah Vowell to roam across America in search of the motivations and culture of political murder. Obsessive, edifying, and, of course, witty, Assassination Vacation is unlike any other historical tourism or travel writing book you'll ever read.
Synopses & Reviews
Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrums of 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.
"What do you get when a woman who's obsessed with death and U.S. history goes on vacation? This wacky, weirdly enthralling exploration of the first three presidential assassinations. Vowell (The Partly Cloudy Patriot), a contributor to NPR's This American Life and the voice of teenage superhero Violet Parr in The Incredibles, takes readers on a pilgrimage of sorts to the sites and monuments that pay homage to Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley, visiting everything from grave sites and simple plaques (like the one in Buffalo that marks the place where McKinley was shot) to places like the National Museum of Health and Medicine, where fragments of Lincoln's skull are on display. An expert tour guide, Vowell brings into sharp focus not only the figures involved in the assassinations, but the social and political circumstances that led to each — and she does so in the witty, sometimes irreverent manner that her fans have come to expect. Thus, readers learn not only about how Garfield found himself caught between the Stalwarts and the Half-Breeds, bitterly divided factions of the Republican party, but how his assassin, Charles Guiteau, a supporter of the Stalwarts and an occasional member of the Oneida Community, "was the one guy in a free love commune who could not get laid." Vowell also draws frequent connections between past events and the present, noting similarities between McKinley's preemptive war against Cuba and the Philippines and the current war in Iraq. This is history at its most morbid and most fascinating and, fortunately, one needn't share Vowell's interest in the macabre to thoroughly enjoy this unusual tour." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Any writer who can put James A. Garfield and Lou Reed in the same sentence leaves me in slack-jawed awe. But a lot of Assassination Vacation is like that. History is so often thought of as the province of the ponderously academic that it's a treat when an amateur — in the oldest and best sense of the word: a person who engages in something for the love of it — reminds us that it's an essential part of who we are." Charles Matthews, San Jose Mercury News
"Vowell could make a trip to the DMV interesting....Part travelogue, part history text and part memoir, Assassination Vacation is more fun than it has any right to be — a bizarre road trip into some of the most searing moments of the nation's past with one of our most amusing storytellers at the wheel." Stephen Kiehl, Baltimore Sun
"Cutting through cant with a satirical scalpel, [Vowell] is the history teacher we all wanted in school: whip-smart, hilariously self-deprecating and gifted with the power to make the invisible appear vividly before our eyes." Ariel Gonzalez, Miami Herald
"Museums and tourist spots often seem like dead, airless places, as flat and static as postcards, but Vowell makes you realize that they, and history itself, is a lot more dynamic than that." Greg Beato, San Francisco Chronicle
"A learned, engagingly discursive, funny, sometimes even jolly ramble....Vowell makes an excellent traveling companion, what with her rare combination of erudition and cheek." Bruce Handy, The New York Times Book Review
"The book is a hoot — entertaining, bemused, even educational....You will annoy your spouse by wanting to read the best parts out loud....The thoughtful and thought-provoking musings of a genuine patriot ? one who loves her country even if its policies disappoint her." Adam Woog, Seattle Times
Cambridge don Helen Moralesand#151;recently transplanted to a new job in Californiaand#151;has written a rousing travel book centering on the life and legacy of Tennessee native Dolly Parton.and#160;and#160; Apart from being a distinguished philologist, Morales is an avid country-music fan.and#160; For years she has especially admired the great country singer, songwriter, actress, and all-round smart cookie Dolly Parton. The Dolly Parton trail she traces is set entirely in Tennessee.and#160; It takes in key sites of Dollyand#8217;s life, from the Grand Ole Opry, where Dolly became a star, to Sevierville, her birthplace, to various homes occupied by Dolly and her gigantic family, to schools she attended. Helen also visits the institutions that have helped immortalize the singer, including the Country Music Hall of Fame, where relics of Dollyand#8217;s life are displayed as those of a saint.and#160; If this is starting to sound like a sacred pilgrimage, well, in a sense it is.and#160; It culminates at the town of Pigeon Forge, where the Dolly Parton Annual Parade is held, featuring the star herself as Grand Marshall, enthroned on a float.and#160; Helen was accompanied on her trip by her husband and their pre-pubescent daughter, Athena, who operates as aand#160; matter-of-fact foil to the authorand#8217;s own romantic and sometimes misguided English notions about American popular culture.and#160; Itand#8217;s good chemistry and makes for a hilarious read.
A star par excellence, Dolly Parton is one of country musicand#8217;s most likable personalities. Even a hard-rocking punk or orchestral aesthete canand#8217;t help cracking a smile or singing along with songs like and#147;Joleneand#8221; and and#147;9 to 5.and#8221; More than a mere singer or actress, Parton is a true cultural phenomenon, immediately recognizable and beloved for her talent, tinkling laugh, and steel magnolia spirit. She is also the only female star to have her own themed amusement park: Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Every year thousands of fans flock to Dollywood to celebrate the icon, and Helen Morales is one of those fans.
In Pilgrimage to Dollywood, Morales sets out to discover Partonand#8217;s Tennessee. Her travels begin at the top celebrity pilgrimage site of Elvis Presleyand#8217;s Graceland, then take her to Loretta Lynnand#8217;s ranch in Hurricane Mills; the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville; to Sevierville, Gatlinburg, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; and finally to Pigeon Forge, home of the and#147;Dolly Homecoming Parade,and#8221; featuring the star herself as grand marshall. Moralesand#8217;s adventure allows her to compare the imaginary Tennessee of Partonand#8217;s lyrics with the real Tennessee where the singer grew up, looking at essential connections between country music, the land, and a way of life. Itand#8217;s also a personal pilgrimage for Morales. Accompanied by her partner, Tony, and their nine-year-old daughter, Athena (who respectively prefer Mozart and Miley Cyrus), Morales, a recent transplant from England, seeks to understand America and American values through the celebrity sites and attractions of Tennessee.
This celebration of Dolly and Americana is for anyone with an old country soul who relies on music to help understand the world, and it is guaranteed to make a Dolly Parton fan of anyone who has not yet fallen for her music or charisma.
andlt;Iandgt;New York Times andlt;/Iandgt;bestselling author of andlt;Iandgt;The Word Shipmates andlt;/Iandgt;and contributor to NPRand#8217;s and#8220;This American Lifeand#8221; Sarah Vowell embarks on a road trip to sites of political violence, from Washington DC to Alaska, to better understand our nationand#8217;s ever-evolving political system and history.
About the Author
Sarah Vowell is a contributing editor for public radio's This American Life and has written for Time, Esquire, GQ, Spin, Salon, McSweeneys, The Village Voice, and the Los Angeles Times. She is the author of Radio On, Take the Cannoli, and The Partly Cloudy Patriot. She lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
1and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Caviar and Fish Sticks
2and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; A Series of Cravings
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Graceland and Other Shrines, Memphis
3and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Country Is as Country Does
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Loretta Lynnand#8217;s Ranch, Hurricane Mills
4and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Music City, USA
5and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Tennessee Mountain Homes
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and Locust Ridge
6and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Color Me America
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Dixie Stampede, Pigeon Forge
7and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Sifting Specks of Gold
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Dollywood Amusement Park, the Great Smoky Mountains
Doing the Pilgrimage
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