The Partly Cloudy Patriot
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The Partly Cloudy Patriot

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3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  15,236 ratings  ·  1,046 reviews

Sarah Vowell travels through the American past and, in doing so, investigates the dusty, bumpy roads of her own life. In this insightful and funny collection of personal stories Vowell -- widely hailed for her inimitable stories on public radio's This American Life -- ponders a number of curious questions: Why is she happiest when visiting the sites of bloody struggles lik...more
Paperback, 196 pages
Published October 1st 2003 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2002)
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Kim
I love Sarah Vowell. I can't say that enough. She re-affirms my belief that someone out there gets 'it'. That... it's not crazy to have these thoughts. (well, some of them, anyway). I'm not even sure that 're-affirms' is the word I'm looking for. I don't know... I'm just extremely grateful...

I'll admit that I”m not one to eagerly debate American politics, the economy or foreign policy, I'm just not articu-literary enough in that way. As you can see, I like to make up words and then people don't...more
simon
ok. i almost gave this book 2 stars because it was cheesy in an NPR/This American Life/The Onion/Obama sort of way. its a book about patriotism and skepticism and being american and thinking about what that means. and really really liking america. i mean, with a conscious and all, but really liking them red white and blue things. so that's the part that made it difficult to swallow.

but sort of stuck in there are really moments of insight and good writing that warranted another perspective. her m...more
Shelly
Aside from herself, Conan O'Brien, Seth Green, Stephen Colbert, and David Cross read on the audio version. That right there is enough to make the content not even matter. But it does. This is my introduction to Sarah Vowell and my favorite of her work.
I especially remember the story about Concord High School in New Hampshire inviting all the 2000 presidential candidates to speak. Half accepted, including Al Gore. This was 1999, the same year as Columbine, and the candidates were asked to speak a...more
Ciara
May 27, 2009 Ciara rated it 1 of 5 stars Recommends it for: racile demoratic partisans, the intellectually dishonest, apologists for the founders
Shelves: read-in-2009
straight up, i am really not a fan of sarah vowell's love affair with american exceptionalism & naked liberal partisanship. there were parts of this book that made me throw it down in disgust. like the piece about sarah & her nerdy politco internet buddies going to george w. bushe's first inauguration, to "witness" the fact that not every american just stood around & did nothing while the election was stolen, blah blah blah, yeah, standing on the mall & crying your eyes out sure...more
Maggie
May 31, 2008 Maggie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Everyone, especially history buffs
This was great both as a work of literature and as an audiobook. Sarah Vowell is funny, articulate, and wise; there's something to be said for writing so good that it makes you actually want to visit boring historical sites (Gettysburg and Salem, specifically). Part memoir and part history lesson, this was in every way fun to listen to. As an added bonus, Conan O'Brien performs as Lincoln, Stephen Colbert does Al Gore (brilliantly), and David Cross reads TR's lines.
I liked this book so much o...more
Dennis Fischman
Sarah Vowell has a unique voice, and I'm not just talking about the high-pitched tone we hear when she reads her essays on NPR's This American Life. Her voice as a writer is distinctive. No one else I know can make Montana and Oklahoma seem like foreign countries and "American" seem exotic.

Most of the essays in this 2002 book are about America: the idea of America vs. its reality, and American history as she has read it and lived it. Her essays will infuriate simple-minded flag-wavers because s...more
Jason Lamb
I want to believe that a Sarah Vowell still dwells in me, that I could be more childlike, more hopeful, more unabashed. I admire her perspective, though it feels naive at times, but I do hold that the world is a far better place with a few True Believers still telling the old stories and visiting National Parks with Purpose.

Some have criticized this collection of essays as meandering, and I suppose that is one way to read it. I had a different understanding. The space between the essays is wher...more
John
Apr 24, 2007 John rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Nerds
This book was very entertaining. I was surprised by some of the author's dead-on observations and ability to step back and examine her own zealotry.

A good example is her essay on the kerfuffle over Al Gore mentioning Love Canal while speaking at a high school. AG was misquoted and "discovered Love Canal" was added to the list of undeserved credits claimed by AG. The author was able to take a step back from her obvious boner for AG and reflect on the irrelevance of a misquote if the result confir...more
Margie
This was my introduction to Sarah Vowell, and I now like her very much. I know, I'm a loser for not listening to NPR more frequently, but I can't pay attention to anything else when it's on (seriously - even wash dishes), so I don't.

She's funny and smart and insightful and definitely a patriot in a way that makes me proud to know that she's a fellow countryman (countrywoman?). A patriot in the "I love my country and am willing to stand up to the groupthink that leads us astray" mold. And also a...more
Tracyesine
I checked this out to read on the plane after realizing that the other choices I was considering were too controversial for airline security. I hoped a book by an American author with the word "patriot" in the title would help me avoid an aggressive pat-down. When I opened the book in the airport, I realized I had heard about half the chapters read aloud by Vowell on This American Life, which somewhat dampened my enjoyment. Still, it was a fast and fairly fun read. The chapter about Canadian Mou...more
Michelle
Well, I have to admit I was partly cloudy as to what essentially this book was supposed to be about. Is it an exploration of a history nerd's civic pride? Her dabbles in Americana? Memoir? Random thoughts about cultural what-not? Social commentary on the state of government and politics in this country? Yes to all of the above! And this is why I remain fuzzy with regards to whether or not I truly enjoyed reading this book.

Sarah Vowell's novel of essays gets off to a great start with a piece abou...more
Anika
After reading the first essay in this compliation I wanted to like this book. I looked forward to more of the same genuine feeling and witty sentiment in which Sarah ensconces her experiences at Gettysburg, Salem, the 2000 inaguration, and the Carlsbad Caverns. Unfortunately these humorus and profound pieces are punctuated with seemingly irrelevant, meandering musings thematically tangental to the patriotic tone set by the title, the cover, and the opening piece. And while I understand the value...more
Jim
As a person who has never quite felt comfortable living in my own country (or anywhere else, really), I loved this collection of essays, in which Sarah Vowell examines the quirks of American society, the highs and lows of American history, and her own neurotic, barely-functional inner life. While she feels like American history is part of her DNA, she doesn't feel entirely comfortable, either.

As a fellow history geek, I loved the way Vowell engages with history. She's not so interested in the g...more
Kirsti
"Along with voting, jury duty, and paying taxes, goofing off is one of the central obligations of American citizenship."

"Being a nerd, which is to say going too far and caring too much about a subject, is the best way to make friends I know."

"I was once a Washington intern, back when being a Washington intern was a goody-goody, model-citizen thing for a young lady to do."

"I don't know how to describe the magnificence of Carlsbad Caverns without making it sound like a cartoon or a drug trip or a...more
Elizabeth
Oct 23, 2008 Elizabeth rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Jenny Benevento, Sonya Green, Shane Beers
Recommended to Elizabeth by: This American Life
Shelves: non-fiction
I picked this one up from BookMooch after hearing one of the stories on This American Life last fall (or maybe earlier this year?). I can't ever decide if I find Sarah Vowell's voice charming or grating, so perhaps reading her prose was the best way to discover that I really, truly do love her.

One of the things I've always appreciated about some of my pen-friends is that the letters they write me could very well be a voice mail message because their way of writing is so true to the way they comm...more
Laura
In the midst of lots, and lots, and lots of academic reading, I needed a break! Ever since 'Take The Cannoli' I've been a huge fan of Ms. Vowell's wit. This book rewards my loyalty. Her relationship to the history of the U.S. is personal with out schmaltz, and funny without being too irreverant.

Two of my favorite passages so far:
Just the other day, I was in my neighborhood Starbucks, waiting for the post office to open. I was enjoying a chocolately caffe mocha when it occurred to me that to drin...more
Dolores
Sarah Vowell is that rare writer who manages to be sarcastic and cynical, but still respectful and downright witty as can be. Her follow-up to "Take the Cannoli" is just as good, but in a different way. Whereas "Take the Cannoli" was more about her coming-of-age and life experiences, "The Partly Cloudy Patriot" is mainly her take on recent political and news events. She manages to put her own personal spin on what has transpired, never sugar-coating her views, but she keeps the humor alive throu...more
Jennifer
This book was not as strongly written as Assassination Vacation and some of Vowell's other works. Not all the essays really fit her main theme, and the overall impression I had as a reader was that Vowell had a book contract pending and just bundled together a bunch of stuff she had written that had anything to do with America broadly defined and-- voila!-- a book was born. Also, I think I would have enjoyed the book much more and been better able to overlook its faults if I'd read it right when...more
Elisha Condie
I've read other Sarah Vowell books before, including this one, but decided to give it another go on vacation. The thing about Sarah Vowell is she's very smart,nerdy,patriotic, and erudite. Her essays are intelligent and funny and yet I can't shake the feeling that if we knew each other in real life, we wouldn't exactly get along. She doesn't seem to like people in general too much.

This book is a lot about America, and politics surrounding the 2000 election. Seriously, the girl does her resear...more
David
Not sure what I expected, but this book didn't excite me. Some of the sections, like the opening chapter dealing with Lincoln at Gettysburg, were quite compelling. Others were family stories that I found boring and irrelevant. I think the book is intended to be a humorous, light-hearted approach to American history. But it just didn't "grab" me. I guess one problem was having multiple readers and sometimes making it into a production instead of an essay. When the introduction to the audiobook me...more
Bryan
'I will say that, in September, atheism was a lonely creed. Not because atheists have no god to turn to, but because everyone else forgot about us. At a televised interfaith memorial service at Yankee Stadium on September 23, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Sikh, and Hindu clerics spoke to their fellow worshipers. Placido Domingo sang "Ave Maria" for the mayor. I waited in vain for someone like me to stand up and say that the only thing those of us who don't believe in god have to believe in is other...more
Jackie "the Librarian"
Oct 21, 2007 Jackie "the Librarian" rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: history buffs
Shelves: non-fiction, humor
I love Sarah Vowell, with her nerdy fascination with history and her marching band background. This book is my favorite of hers, thanks to her chapter on Al Gore and the "nerd voice", which I have to admit that I am occasionally guilty of myself. I have a streak of snark. I'm sorry, okay?
It's so true - if Al could have just mocked himself a little bit for it, it would have been okay. We could have forgiven him for all his know-it-all smartypants-ness, and everything would have been so very diffe...more
Melissa
I love Sarah Vowell and this might be my favorite of her books. She writes essays about...well, just about everything: her relationship with her republican dad (who calls her after elections to remind her that he cancelled out her vote), the Salem Witch Trials, underground lunchrooms and why Tom Cruise made her nervous years before he was jumping on couches. She's funny and insightful and, if you have never heard Sarah on This American Life (a PRI radio show), it's worth getting this on tape/CD,...more
Sarah
I love Sarah Vowell so much that I hate to give her book a mere two stars. However, I finished it this morning, and my overall feeling was, "meh." A few good essays- nothing that stood out. A few more that went on too long. Maybe they would have been more enjoyable if I were listening to her read them aloud on NPR, but as a whole, this book just didn't work for me. I'm still looking forward to reading "Assassination Vacation," which I've heard is more cohesive.
Robyn
Some of the selections are a bit random and don't really fit with her writings of political satire. Other pieces are simply laugh-out-loud funny (which is interesting when listening to this on an airplane). I listened to this on audio book and it took a little bit to get over her teenager-with-a-bad-head-cold voice. But the funny bits are funny regardless.
Milton Soong
[audio book] Some book should be heard instead of read, this is one of them. If you are a fan of this NPR commentator who comments on history, current events, etc, then you'll probably get a good kick out of this. At times funny and wistful, at times it'll make you angry (depending on your political bent).
Taylor Schena
I LOVE Vowell's vocabulary and wit. Despite my lack of knowledge regarding politics and American history, I found myself thoroughly entertained and intrigued, wanting to know more about both. Sidenote: if Sarah Vowell and Chuck Klosterman wrote a book together I think my brain would explode, in a good way.
Gregg
Sarah Vowell sounds off about history, contemporary issues (as of 2002, anyway), presidential minutae and baby games. She doesn't "sound off" so much as she riffs--sounding appropriately erudite and smart-ass without coming off as arrogant and opinionated. I could read her all day. Good stuff.
Heidi
Mar 17, 2014 Heidi rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Brook
I really like Sarah Vowell, and this is some of her best stuff. She champions all sorts of nerd-dom, and her devotion to civics and history makes me want to read more. The title essay is actually quite moving in her fierce devotion to all that is right--and wrong--with America.
Maury
My friend Melissa turned me on to Sarah Vowell with this book. I can't say enough how much I love this woman. I have become a reader of essays in part because of this book. I've given this book to students, friends, and colleagues. LOVE IT!!
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Sarah Jane Vowell is an American author, journalist, humorist, and commentator. Often referred to as a "social observer," Vowell has authored several books and is a regular contributor to the radio program This American Life on Public Radio International. She was also the voice of Violet in the animated film The Incredibles and a short documentary, VOWELLET - An Essay by SARAH VOWELL in the "Behin...more
More about Sarah Vowell...
Assassination Vacation The Wordy Shipmates Take the Cannoli Unfamiliar Fishes Radio On: A Listener's Diary

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“Being a nerd, which is to say going too far and caring too much about a subject, is the best way to make friends I know. For me, the spark that turns an acquaintance into a friend has usually been kindled by some shared enthusiasm . . . At fifteen, I couldn't say two words about the weather or how I was doing, but I could come up with a paragraph or two about the album Charlie Parker with Strings. In high school, I made the first real friends I ever had because one of them came up to me at lunch and started talking about the Cure.” 59 likes
“In these fast and fickle times, it’s nice to know that there are some things you can always count on: the enduring brilliance of the last page of The Great Gatsby; the near-religious harmonies of the Beach Boys’ “California Girls”; and the lifelong friendship of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.” 51 likes
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