Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sarah Vowell Live!

Hi folks! Greetings from L.A., where I'm currently on vacation. In the midst of my museum-hopping, I made a little time to stop by a local book store called Book Soup, where Sarah Vowell was doing a reading & signing.

I don't know about you, but I'm a bit of an author groupie. In addition to Sarah, I've checked out bookish events featuring Sandra Cisneros, Bruce Campbell, Anne Rice, David Sedaris, & most recently Elizabeth Gilbert. It's hard to top David Sedaris live, but Sarah Vowell did not disappoint.

For those of you unfamiliar with Sarah's work, she writes about historical events from a personal (& often snarky) perspective. The first book I read of hers, Assassination Vacation, is about her tour of the U.S. seeking out places & facts about the first 3 presidential assassinations. In the book she was reading & signing last night, The Wordy Shipmates, she's writing about the Massachusetts Bay Colony, specifically her two main 'characters', John Winthrop (of the 'city on a hill' sermon) & Roger Williams. Don't call it her book about the pilgrims! She is specific that the Pilgrims were a different bunch of folks. She is writing about the Massachusetts Bay Colony, after the pilgrims' landing & before the Salem Witch Trials.

Sarah is careful to call herself a reporter rather than a historian. Don't expect to find a lengthy bibliography in her works. She reads first-person accounts & interprets for herself. You are more likely to find interviews with park rangers & asides about friends & family (particularly her nephew Owen) she has brought with her to collect information than more dense scholarly sources.

Last night, Sarah read from her book & fielded a lot of questions. She's a very entertaining speaker, her wit as dry in person as in her books. Anyone who can make folks want to read about assassination & Puritanism has got to be something special! Look for her next book, which apparently will be about Hawaii & missionaries. Owen has discovered video games now, but he's still traveling around with his aunt & knows more about King Kamehameha than most ten-year-olds.

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