Matt's Reviews > Assassination Vacation

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
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's review
Jan 31, 2010

really liked it
Read in January, 2010

Funny + learning = awesome.

Let's put it this way. I read most of this book during weekday work breaks, so it had to be light and airy enough to make it feel like my brain was resting. On the other hand, Vowell spends a lot of time writing about the likes of politics in the days of Presidents Garfield and Arthur, which is only riveting to the geekiest of the geeks. ("Just for fun, I decided to take a self-guided tour of Garfield's Washington D.C. ...") So I think I pay it high compliment in saying that it works. Bottom line is that Sarah is funny and quirky and bright and sensible and it all just makes me wish I could vacation with her.

What really makes the book fly is its balance. Sure, she writes about the assassination of presidents. But she is also writing about architecture and historical and cultural memory (the importance of relics and sacred icons connecting us to our past). There are the various levels of the historical events themselves, the resulting monuments, and her (and the public's) reaction to it. And she's writing about the odd people she runs into and how people react to reading old bronze plaques. And how one edits justifications for violence down to a length suitable for tee shirts. And her three year-old nephew obsessed with "skeletons" and "crypts". And it's fun, because she makes the history interesting and puts in humor wherever appropriate.

I'm sorry I'm finished.
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