THIS BLOG IS MY BLOG. THIS BLOG IS MY BLOG. Welcome to the Home of Hyperopia.: Book Review - Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

Monday, January 26, 2009

Book Review - Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

My sister recommended that I read this book. So I did. And I'm glad I did. I enjoyed it (so thanks, Laura!).

It was entertaining and interesting. It also surprised me. Or at least my main takeaway from the book surprised me. Because the primary lesson I got from this book (1) was very important to me personally and (2) had nothing specifically to do with the topic of the book (i.e., reflections on the assassinations of a few former U.S. presidents). What did I learn? Something about my second-favorite topic in all the world -- me.

During the introduction to this book (if I'm remembering correctly), Vowell is talking about herself. Specifically she is talking about how obsessed she is with presidential trivia and especially macabre (morbid?) trivia about the assassinated presidents she covers in this book. And she relates how she has at some point figured out that her obsession doesn't play very well in day-to-day social settings. And so to compensate she finds herself sitting in a corner at some party somewhere admonishing herself "don't bring up McKinley ... don't bring up McKinley." In other words, she is in the obsession so deep that she can relate everything that she sees, hears, experiences, etc. to the assassinations. There's always a connection. And as a result she (correctly) sees that she is a bit tedious/dull in public.

When I read that part of the book, I realized that she was talking directly to me about one of my challenges in relationships. I am obsessed with Federal Reserve policy, libertarianism, Ron Paul, and so on. Whenever I am in a group of people, there's always something that comes up where I can toss in a tidbit; where I can "share" something I "understand" about the topic. As a result, I can be tedious and dull in public. I can be very disagreeable. And I don't want to be. So the book was helpful as a dose of reality about who I am and an inadvertent recommendation that I should edit myself more than I do so I'll be more enjoyable to be around.

One part of the book that didn't surprise me, by the way, and that disappointed me, was Vowell's Lincoln-worship (and really President worship generally). My view -- which I won't be sharing at cocktail parties very much in the future, I hope, if I can take my own advice -- is that presidents, especially Lincoln, do not deserve our respect and certainly shouldn't be worshipped. Government is the great evil of our time (just as it has been throughout history). But, to her considerable credit, Vowell does seem to me to be interested in truth, so maybe eventually she'll come around.

Isn't that the face of a woman who wants to have someone tell her that everything she believes about everything the government has done all these years is wrong? Isn't everyone?


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