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November 13, 2008 |

By Dustin Rowles | Books | November 13, 2008 |


Assassination Vacation follows Vowell and a few of her friends and sometimes her sister and her adorable nephew as they make a pilgrimage to various sites that are important to presidential assassination history. The book is split into three parts — one each on Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. Vowell has this amazing ability to make even the boring shit fascinating — to be honest, I sort of forgot that McKinley was a president until she made me love the guy. Plus, she draws some really interesting parallels between his administration and the current one (just replace Iraq with Cuba, and bam! foreign policy disaster twins).

While the stuff about the actual assassinations are interesting, its when she gets sidetracked that the book goes from entertaining to absolutely amazing. For example, did you know that the late renaissance king El Hechizado laid with the putrid corpse of Saint Francis of Assissi on his deathbed because people thought it would make him well again? Or that poor Todd Lincoln was present at the assassinations of three separate presidents? Or that John Wilkes Booth’s brother was the most famous Shakespearean actor of his day, and he saved Todd Lincoln from being hit by a train? Or, my personal favorite, that the guy who killed Garfield was a member of the Oneida Community, which currently produces fine kitchenware, but back in the day was a communist vegetarian sex cult that practiced the fine art of the airing of grievances?

Can I just say that it kills me that Nicole Ritchie has sold more books than Sarah Vowell? It kills me that little girls look up to Lauren Conrad and not Sarah Vowell. It kills me that little girls don’t know who Vowell is. Because she is the fucking shit.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. Details are here and the growing number of participants and their blogs are here. And check here for more of Marra Alane’s reviews.

Cannonball Read / Marra Alane

Books | November 13, 2008 |




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


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