Sunday, November 29, 2009

Assassination Vacation or Disneyland

Assassination Vacation

Author: Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrums of American history and culture with wit, probity, and an irreverent sense of humor. With Assassination Vacation, she takes us on a road trip like no other--a journey to the pit stops of American political murder and through the myriad ways they have been used for fun and profit, for political and cultural advantage.

From Buffalo to Alaska, Washington to the Dry Tortugas, Vowell visits locations immortalized and influenced by the spilling of politically important blood, reporting as she goes with her trademark blend of wisecracking humor, remarkable honesty, and thought-provoking criticism. We learn about the jinx that was Robert Todd Lincoln (present at the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) and witness the politicking that went into the making of the Lincoln Memorial. The resulting narrative is much more than an entertaining and informative travelogue--it is the disturbing and fascinating story of how American death has been manipulated by popular culture, including literature, architecture, sculpture, and--the author's favorite--historical tourism.

Though the themes of loss and violence are explored and we make detours to see how the Republican Party became the Republican Party, there are lighter diversions into the lives of the three presidents and their assassins, including mummies, show tunes, mean-spirited totem poles, and a nineteenth-century biblical sex cult.

The New York Times - Bruce Handy

Having made the commercially courageous decision to avoid the catnip that is the Kennedy name, Vowell restricts her gaze to America's first three presidential murders: those of Abraham Lincoln, Garfield and William McKinley. Mixing travelogue, history, personal essay and social criticism, she follows the loose formula perfected in two previous collections of magazine pieces and adapted versions of her appearances on public radio's ''This American Life,'' where she is a regular.

Library Journal

Vowell visits assassination sites throughout the country to consider how political violence gets manipulated. With a 13-city tour including some of the stops along her way?

School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Vowell has a perspective on American history that is definitely funny. She visits museums, historic sites, statues, libraries, anything remotely relevant to successful presidential assassins, and a few of those not so successful. This is an amusing way to learn history, but it is also an unusual look at the interconnectedness of things. Robert Todd Lincoln, "a.k.a. Jinxy McDeath," was present, or nearly so, at three assassinations-his father's, Garfield's, and McKinley's. To understand Garfield's assassin, the author spends time at the Oneida Colony in upstate New York, a religious commune that preached a combination of free love and the second coming, and connects it with Jonathan Edwards. She tracks the Lincoln conspirators through the process of plot and escape to hanging and imprisonment, even describing Dr. Mudd's enormous contribution when the plague hit the prison island of Dry Tortuga. Garfield's assassin was deeply involved in the redirection of the Republican Party after the Civil War, and McKinley's was an anarchist following, he thought, the tenets of Emma Goldman. There are family anecdotes and real scholarship in this quirky road trip. Teens will get an interesting view of one aspect of American history while picking up odd bits of information about a whole lot more. There is much to enjoy in this discursive yet somehow cohesive book.-Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, VA

Disneyland (Little-Known Facts about Well-Known Places)

Author: David Hoffman

Did You Know?

  • When Disneyland opened its gates on July 17, 1955, it had just eighteen rides and attractions. Today there are more than sixty.
  • The inspiration for Sleeping Beauty Castle came from Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany.
  • Walt Disney was afraid of mice. Though certainly well-known, Mickey Mouse is not the most recognizable character in the world; he ranks third, after Santa Claus and Ronald McDonald.
Disneyland… a magic place of dreams and adventure. In this follow-up to the popular Little-Known Facts about Well-Known Stuff, David Hoffman delves into the stories behind the happiest place on earth. Little-Known Facts about Well-Known Places goes beyond the obvious to reveal the tidbits that we have yet to discover. Covering every aspect—from the history and personalities to the landscaping and architecture—this collection of offbeat facts and figures, statistics and specifics, is guaranteed to delight a first-time visitor and surprise even the most die-hard fan. Packed with a wealth of revelations, Little-Known Facts about Well-Known Places is a must-have for Mouseketeers, information addicts, curious readers, and armchair travelers of all ages.

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