"The Wordy Shipmates" is "New York Times"?bestselling author Sarah Vowell's exploration of the Puritans and their journey to America to become the people of John Winthrop's ?city upon a hill a shining example, a ?city that cannot be hid.? To this day, America views itself as a Puritan nation, but Vowell investigates what that means? and what it ...
"The Wordy Shipmates" is "New York Times"?bestselling author Sarah Vowell's exploration of the Puritans and their journey to America to become the people of John Winthrop's ?city upon a hill a shining example, a ?city that cannot be hid.? To this day, America views itself as a Puritan nation, but Vowell investigates what that means? and what it should mean. What was this great political enterprise all about? Who were these people who are considered the philosophical, spiritual, and moral ancestors of our nation? What Vowell discovers is something far different from what their uptight shoe-buckles-and- corn reputation might suggest. The people she finds are highly literate, deeply principled, and surprisingly feisty. Their story is filled with pamphlet feuds, witty courtroom dramas, and bloody vengeance. Along the way she asks: * Was Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop a communitarian, a Christlike Christian, or conformity's tyrannical enforcer? "Answer: Yes!" * Was Rhode Island's architect, Roger Williams, America's founding freak or the father of the First Amendment? "Same difference." * What does it take to get that jezebel Anne Hutchinson to shut up? "A hatchet." * What was the Puritans? pet name for the Pope? "The Great Whore of Babylon." Sarah Vowell's special brand of armchair history makes the bizarre and esoteric fascinatingly relevant and fun. She takes us from the modern-day reenactment of an Indian massacre to the Mohegan Sun casino, from old-timey Puritan poetry, where ?righteousness? is rhymed with ?wilderness, ? to a Mayflower-themed waterslide. Throughout, "The Wordy Shipmates" is rich in historical fact, humorous insight, and social commentary by one of America's most celebrated voices. Thou shalt enjoy it.
Sarah Vowell does a wonderful job of defining the differences between the Plymouth Colony and the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
I learned a lot and enjoyed her witty insights.
Mar 11, 2010
This book, recommended to me, proved a sore disappointment. The author's "history" of the Puritan adventure is merely a ruse to proclaim her own political beliefs and to attack traditional American icons. As to her research, I question it. Since her reading of modern events is dishonest and scewed, I am distrustful of her work on the Puritans. John Winthrop, Increase Mather, and Samuel Sewall have told their own stories. It is better to read them than this whining "blog" with its silly references to modern culture such as The Brady Bunch. These cutesy assides are irritating and inane. This is a terrible book and in no way history.
Feb 4, 2010
I LOVED this book!
Sarah Vowell has made what was for me an obscure part of history fascinating. She has obviously done a great deal of research about the Puritans and Pilgrims, where they came from, what motivated them, their impressions of the New World and the impressions they made on the New World, and their continuing influence on American culture and thought. Her take is very personal and extremely funny. I actually laughed out loud throughout this book. She delights in pointing out the idiosyncrasies and foibles of these very serious people and their endeavors, but she also has a great deal of affection for them, so there is no mean-spirit here, just a clear-sighted, thoughtful, if very rye, description. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Jan 22, 2009
Vowell's Writing Makes Me Howl
In her fifth book so far, "A Wordy Shipmate," Sarah Vowell seems to be going more and more out on the limb of edgy (inside edge, as in just barely professional at times; not the outside/frontier edge) writing. I sort of wish I hadn't caught her on television, for I hear her high-register voice and see her randy mannerisms when I read this book.
She is open and honest about it, it seems: She knows she has gotten away with being a little snot and in fact is paid good money for it. I'm not so sure tthat he snarky takes on her rehashing of Massachusetts history were absolutely needed; it's been done lots better in many other books.
So, to get my money's worth from the book, which I certainly did, I had to ignore her voice and image. I tried replacing it with Doris Goodman's, but that only went so far; the writing stles are just too different. Just reading as if written by a stranger worked fine after a bit of practice. Some of her bits could be used directly on stage at a comedy or improve club, and, depending on the mood of the evening, would likely be a huge hit.
Other sections of the book dig deeper into Puritan history itself. While I'd read of those folks in high school and college even, it had been a while. Vowell sure does bring their story to life, although is it really fair to judge them against today's mores?
Overall, the book is a very good read; just be careful to steer clear of her tv appearances.
Publishers Weekly, 2008-12-22 Vowell's account of the post-Mayflower Puritans of New England and their influence on contemporary American culture over the centuries is thoroughly enjoyable in print. But hearing her ironic but passionate little-girl voice making history accessible and providing humorous and often trenchant present-day asides, as she did on NPR's This American Life, is even better. In addition to fleshing out history with extensive quotes from journals and other documents of the time, Vowell has assembled a sizable cast of co-readers, including Eric Bogosian, Peter Dinklage, Jill Clayburgh, Campbell Scott and Dermot Mulroney. Some narrators feel like stunt casting, although there's a lovely cameo by Catherine Keener, whose calm, self-contained voice is perfect for Anne Hutchinson on trial. Vowell and company (aided by Michael Giacchino's musical score) make for pleasurable listening. A Riverhead hardcover (Reviews, July 28). (Oct.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
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