Assassination Vacation
Sarah Vowell
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Buy *Assassination Vacation* online

Assassination Vacation
Sarah Vowell
Simon & Schuster
272 pages
January 2006
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Whether you know her as the voice of Violet Parr from The Incredibles or her spots on NPR, there is no mistaking Sarah Vowell’s (The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Take The Cannoli: Stories From The New World, Radio On: A Listener’s Diary) unique voice and talent.

Assassination Vacation pretty much sums up what the book is about in all of two words: it is Sarah Vowell’s road trip to the places and monuments associated with presidential assassinations. Basically breaking it up into three parts, Vowell discusses Lincoln’s assassination (there’s nothing new offered here), Garfield’s assassination, and a quick look at McKinley’s assassination. But it’s more than that. It’s an amalgam of several things: there’s some stream of consciousness, part travel brochure, some history geekdom, and part editorial. There’s all of Vowell’s sharp wit, humor and personal beliefs, but it is the bursts of ranting that pulls you out of the narrative. Even if you have the same political beliefs as Vowell, it becomes a bit much. No one wants to hear someone preach from his or her soapbox even if you whole-heartedly agree with what they are saying. Other than that contrivance, it is still a very good book filled with Vowell’s irreverent humor and intelligence:

“I’m worried about the president’s safety,” I said at a Fourth of July party in 2004 when this guy Sam And I were discussing the upcoming Republican National Convention here in New York. “I think you’ve seen the Manchurian Candidate too many times,” Sam said. Guilty. Still I dread bodily harm coming to the current president because my aforementioned aversion to murder, also because I don’t think I can stomach watching the man get turned into a martyr if he were killed. That’s what happens. It’s one of the few perks of assassination. In death, you get upgraded into a saint no matter how much people hated you in life. As the rueful Henry Adams, a civil service advocate who marveled at his fellow reformers immediate deification of President Garfield after that assassination, wrote, ‘The cynical impudence with which reformers have tried to manufacture an ideal statesman out of the late shady politician beats anything in novel-writing.”
Filled with quirky facts and enough history to placate history buffs, Vowell combines yesteryear with today’s political climate. Throw in some pop references and she achieves success in making history palatable to the average Joe. It’s a light-hearted entertaining read that should not be taken as serious hardcore journalism. Minus the political axe grinding, Assassination Vacation is an enjoyable summer read.

© 2005 by Bobby Blades for

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