Monday, January 22, 2007

Take The Cannoli, Sarah Vowell

Title: Take The Cannoli
Author: Sarah Vowell
Rating: Good

My last review indicated that I was slogging through two books and not particularly enjoying either one. That review - of Catch-22 - was one of those books. This is not the other one. In fact, Take The Cannoli is a highly enjoyable, quickly read book of essays, some of which I've heard before on NPR - usually via a show called This American Life where Sarah Vowell is a regular contributor.

Sarah's writing is generally light and fun, often concentrating on humorous episodes from her personal life, but she does tackle some larger and/or more painful subjects. Here she covers things as dark as the Trail Of Tears, but for me her writing is at its best when it is most personal. The story of her trying to understand her father the gun nut is a gem. The pieces about American history of one sort or another - where the connection between her and the story is more tenuous - are interesting, but don't grab me quite as deeply.

This book was published in 2000, and we all know a few things have changed since it was printed. I hope she writes a book including the essays she's written during the Bush (43) years. She'll have some very interesting things to say.

Here are a few lines from Take The Cannoli that I thought were particularly good:
  • "Being irrational can get so inexplicable." From Drive Through Please, about learning to drive at age 28.

  • "Observing these random hobbyists try to keep up with [Nils] Lofgren is like watching Origin of the Species: The Musical." From Your Dream, My Nightmare, in which she goes to Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp.

  • "Sine coffea nihil sum. Without coffee I'm nothing." Her personal motto, from Dark Circles, about trying to find a remedy for insomnia.
Sarah Vowell definitely can turn a phrase. And while her work is better when she reads it in that second grade (her term) voice of hers, it seems to hold up better in written form than that of David Sedaris. It's still properly warm and fuzzy on the page, even though you know it would be funnier if she were there in person, reading it aloud.

A recommended read.

Oh, and for those who haven't seen it or don't know, Sarah Vowell is also the voice of Violet Parr (the oldest child) in the movie The Incredibles.