Thursday, May 5, 2011

Assassination Vacation

I'm on a great run of books lately, mostly non-fiction. This is another in that run.

I kept coming across reviews of Sarah Vowell's new book, Unfamiliar Fishes, and it looks mighty good. It's a history of Hawaii, which, despite my operating, isn't a topic in and of itself that I would want to read a book about.

Then again, I wouldn't really want to read a book about presidential assassinations. Nonetheless, I did.

Sarah Vowell is weird. I like that about her. Her writing reminded me a lot of another weird woman writer, Mary Roach. You have to be weird to be researching the killings of presidents. And not only researching, but visiting all the pertinent places. Not just where the killings took place, but the homes of the presidents and the killers. And museums that have fragments of body parts from those involved.

What sets apart the book from your typical delving into dead presidents is that Vowell has fun. And she definitely seems like someone who isn't going to enjoy something on her own so she drags along/tricks friends and relatives to accompany her to all the places. Her trips with her nephew are especially entertaining.

I like her writing, too. It is very conversational. I don't like her overuse of the word "lousy" to mean abundant, as in "This place is lousy with tourists". She is also very zealous in her politics which could kill a lot of people's interest in the book. But she's honest and doesn't care who knows.

The book itself is broken into four chapters. The longest and first covers Lincoln's assassination. That is followed by Garfield and McKinley and then the final chapter wraps things up with a semi-focus on angel of presidential death, Robert Todd Lincoln. His father was killed, he saw Garfield be shot and he supposedly on the scene where McKinley was shot soon after the attack.

This was a fun book and I expect I'll read more of Vowell somewhere down the road.

1 comment:

Hackenbush said...

I only came to know of Sarah Vowell after getting a promo copy of the "The Wordy Shipmates" on CD. Since then I've read most of her other stuff. It's hard not to love her. Check out "Vowellet", on Youtube.