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December 5, 2008 |

By Dustin Rowles | Books | December 5, 2008 |

And yet another one you’ve all heard about and already like, and you’ve already read all her books. Well, I haven’t. And I liked this one. So shut up.

I had a roommate in college, who used to get extremely drunk and then regale us with three hour long lectures on various battles of World War II. Now this might sound odious to you. But it was the most fascinating thing I ever heard. He would sway, his liquor sloshing just to the edge of his glass but never over, in some sort of ode to the drunken professor. He would decant facts, quote statistics, give descriptions of policy and procedure and major players. He would pepper his speech with swear words and violent opinions. If he were a history professor, I might have changed my major.

This is the same with Sarah Vowell. She covering potentially boring territory, but she so goddamned excited about it, you can’t help but get swept up in her revelry. Also, she knows she’s a dork. So that helps.

She covers three presidential assassinations, and does it in such a clever way, that it takes potentially dry information and makes it fresh and interesting.

The only beef I can see people having with Vowell is that she screams Air America. She’s a staunch liberal, and everything that Republicans bash the party for. She’s a neurotic intellectual, disliking hiking, driving, or crowds of people. She hates Bush, bemoans America’s racist trend of chopping up the brown folk, and doesn’t have children of her own. She looks like Wednesday Addams, and she seems like a less cunty version of Janeane Garofalo.

But she writes well. She’s biased, she’s obsessive, and she’s kind of a weird bird. But that’s what makes her books so goddamn charming. She’s giving you the pop culture tour, rather than reciting dry facts. She’s regurgitating the wealth of information she’s ingested and delivering it an appetizing manner.

I am curious to read her other works, particularly the non-historical ones, because I don’t know if she’d hold up outside of a context of historical interest. But that remains to be seen.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. Details are here and the growing number of participants and their blogs are here.

Cannonball Read / Brian Prisco

Books | December 5, 2008 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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