Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Assassination Vacation

Venture into the hilarious world of assassinations. Yes, hilarious. Sarah Vowell, a humorist/columnist/voice of public radio has a morbid interest in Presidential assassinations. She set out to visit various sites across the U.S. that are linked to the assassinations and recorded her adventures in this hilarious travelogue.

Vowell brings readers to the homes of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley as well as to more obscure places such as the Mutter Museum which has specimens of John Wilkes Booth's thorax and Charles Guiteau's (Garfield's assassin) brain.

Here is a chart from the Mutter of Pres. McKinley after he was shot.

By speaking with the historians, curators, and tour guides, Vowell brings readers very close to the assassins by revealing their lives, motives, and deaths. For example, she points out that many people hated Lincoln, and Booth thought that he would be a hero. Also revealed is the poor and lonely childhood of McKinley's assassin, Czolgosz. Looking to find a place to fit in, he began attending anarchist meetings and thus began his plan.

Though death is the "theme" of the book, Vowell looks at the assassinations as as story and examines each character objectively and with humor. Those interested in history will be pleased to learn a great deal about the assassinations- much more than is ever taught in any school. Travelers will be inspired to visit the many museums and historical sites mentioned. Recommended for fans of Lincoln books and travelogues.

Hear Sarah Vowell read an excerpt here