My reviewrating: 4 of 5 stars
recommended for: NPR fans, casual history buffs, Robert Todd Lincoln Haters, Presidential Necrophiliacs
I have a huge crush on Sarah Vowell, just sayin'. She's funny, she's eloquent, she's fascinating, etc. Oh and she played Violet in The Incredibles as well as doing amazing radio essays for This American Life.
I'm a fan of her PRI essays but not so much of her books, I was very happily surprised to find I liked Assassination Vacation much more than her others. It's an investigation of the tourism around the sites of presidential assassinations and odd facts and trivia surrounding them and their assassins. She intersperses the book with anecdotes of her adventures she had on her self-proclaimed pilgrimage of presidential assassination. Quick tip: If you find a way to time-travel to the late 19th or early 20th Centuries, never let Robert Todd Lincoln attend your party... dude ... seriously, never!!
I have a few nits to pick with some of her information, especially with Pres. Garfield, but she mostly gets the history right, so that's cool. It's hard not to grin at her infectious and obvious love of history as well as her idiosyncratic asides such as wishing she could go back in time and kill her relative who rode with Quantrails' Raiders; or how cute she finds John Wilkes Booth; or how the Maryland State song (adopted in 1939) contains references critical of Lincoln, The Union and favorable to the Confederacy.
I also found she shares a passion of mine, historical plaques and signs. If I see one, even on a bridge, I have to stop read and take a picture. As you'll find out if you read Assassination Vacation, they are impossibly and improbably compelling. Really!
This is not great literature or great history but it is fun and interesting. I enjoyed her dry-humored, pop-informational tour of our more necrotic presidents and the assassins who hated them. If your a Sarah Vowell or history fan, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
PS: Get the Audio book if you can, it features the voices of - Conan O’Brien, Seth Green, Stephen Colbert, David Cross, Paul Begala, Michael Chabon, Norman Lear, and music by They Might Be Giants. Conan is hilarious as the voice of Sad-sack son of Lincoln, Robert Todd.
January 31st 2006 by Simon & Schuster
isbn - 074326004X (isbn13: 9780743260046)
pages - 272