Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cannonball Read Entry #22: The Wordy Shipmates - Sarah Vowell

There's kind of a weird feeling that I got reading Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates; At first, I enjoyed it because it was well-written, the asides and observations were witty an poignant, and she obviously had a passion for the subject material. But after a while, I noticed something: I was actually learning something. That sneaky bitch! She was bettering me as a human being! How DARE she!

Kidding aside, Sarah Vowell is one of those authours that you severely wished taught you High School history, but couldn't because she was busy being totally awesome and recording voice work for The Incredibles. It's this awesomeness that allows her to write a book that is both informative and pretty damn easy on the eyes.

To her credit, Sarah Vowell's version of America's birth is rather free of any political affiliations. She's neither of a stubborn patriot or a tip-toeing political correctionist. While no one may be perfect, everyone plays an integral part of creating a nation that stands for freedom and justice, even when it doesn't exactly appear that way.

One of the biggest problems I have with history is that, for the most part, people tend to gloss over the parts that don't exactly paint the most flattering picture. Whether it's something simple, like Disney and Warner Brothers putting the kibosh on their more racist cartoons, to the extreme side of denial where people look back at Hitler and World War 2 and say that 6 Million Jews were never systematically killed, you just can't pretend that history never happened just because it doesn't paint a flattering picture of you. Sarah Vowell knows this, and furthermore, isn't afraid to draw parallels between the past and present in order to show the importance of learning from history.

Although there are some slight problems when it comes to the layout of the book. Unfortunately, there are no chapters, so all her ideas just run into each other without much time for rest between them. This leads to something I like to call "Impenetrable Walls of Text" syndrome. It's not that it's not interesting (because it really is), but when there's no room for a break, everything begins to feel dropped on you like a brick.

All in all, it's absolutely fantastic. It shows the settlers as fallible and imperfect, but at the same time there's a common humanity and bravery to them, and really, that's all we can ask from them.

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