Sunday, July 26, 2009

Assassination Vacation, Sarah Vowell

Assassination Vacation
Sarah Vowell

With Assassination Vacation, Sarah Vowell hits 3 of 4 with me as successful volumes.

In it she describes her researches into the history of 3 presidential assassinations: Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. It sounds macabre - and it is - but Vowell pulls it off and keeps a sense of humor about it.

She manages that by adding things to the simple dry history, things like her own opinions and musings on what those involved were saying and and thinking.

I enjoyed reading this, and I learned a few things in the process. Alas, my brain is lousy at holding on to details - I'm better at remembering emotions for some reason - so I'm afraid a lot of the actual history here won't stick with me.

Still, it's fascinating to learn that Robert Todd Lincoln - the president's son - was at or nearby during all three of the assassinations Vowell documents.

I will take a few other facts away from this, too: McKinley's assassin, Leon Czolgosz, was a depressed anarchist. Garfield's assassin, Charles Guiteau, was probably clinically insane. And Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, actually thought he was doing good for the country.

I recommend Assassination Vacation for it's quirky humor mixed with Vowell's opinions and real history. An odd but nice blend.