Imogen's Reviews > The Wordy Shipmates

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
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Oct 08, 2008

really liked it
Read in October, 2008

I think it's funny how there's always a moment during a Sarah Vowell book where I go, 'oh yeah! She just writes american history!' It came pretty early on in this one, too.

This is not my favorite of her books. It's a lot more american history, and a lot less Sarah Vowell being a smartass about american history, than I prefer. I mean, I was into it, and I finished it, and I kept all the Puritans whose names begin with Ws straight, but I don't know. The whole appeal of Sarah Vowell for me is not that she makes american history accessible, it's that she uses american history as a vehicle for, y'know, talking about other stuff. Like the Brady Bunch, and her nephew's martial-arts inspired interpretive dancing, that sort of stuff. Which all was in here, just y'know. Not as much as explanations of pamphlet wars in 1640.

And I mean to her credit I followed what she was talking about in the pamphlet wars! I zone out pretty easily, and all I really like is the Cloverfield Monster, blastbeats and cussing. So I think she succeeded and all, she's just not the kind of writer i connect with in a five-star kinda way.

Also, I guess it felt a little unfocused to me? Like, posterity will probably show me to be wrong when I read more reviews of it, but there was a thread of 'this fucked up place where we are in american history right now? We got here DIRECTLY from our roots in these people' that I would've liked to see fleshed out more- which would have involved, again, more Sarah Vowell talking about these modern times in our lives. Y'know?

I like typing "Sarah Vowell" over and over like the way the RZA says "Bill Murray" in "Coffee & Cigarettes." Right Sarah Vowell?

Anyway yeah. My point is, I was interested, I was engaged, but ultimately, this is an American History book with a little meta smartass commentary. I want more meta smartass commentary from you, Sarah Vowell! There were whole paragraphs where you didn't even mock any of these old timey people.

...

Oh also I like the part where she's like, 'Anne Hutchinson incriminated herself because she didn't know when to shut the fuck up. Like me!' Because I can relate too.

....

OH AND ANOTHER THING! She makes fun of whatsisname for arguing that Christianity fell off around the time of Constantine, but whatsisname was kind of right. I mean, Constantine was the one who took 'turn the other cheek' and turned it into an official religion or a state, to justify wars and stuff. Hasn't she read Mark Kurlansky's book about nonviolence?

Oh, right, nobody read that book.
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