Monday, April 22, 2013
The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
Published October 2008 by Penguin Group
Source: I bought this one & read it on my Nook
To this day, America views itself as a Puritan nation, but Sarah Vowell investigates what that means-and what it should mean. What she discovers is something far different from what their uptight shoebuckles- and-corn reputation might suggest-a highly literate, deeply principled, and surprisingly feisty people, whose story is filled with pamphlet feuds, witty courtroom dramas, and bloody vengeance.
Sarah Vowell was suggested by one of the Omaha Bookworms a few months ago and I selected this particular book. I have heard Vowell speak on the radio several times and found her to be witty and smart and assumed I'd enjoy her writings. And I did...but it was a lot more work than I was expecting. Since I read it on my Nook (the first book I've finished on my Nook!), I made use of the highlighting and note taking capabilities extensively. In fact, I'm a little afraid to scan it back over again to see just how much of the book I thought was worth revisiting. Let's just say, I learned a tremendous amount about the founders of Boston, Rhode Island and Harvard University.
Vowell works to present a balanced view of the players in the book, who are mostly those who arrived on this continent on the ship Arbella in 1690. Looking into their writings, she manages to find both the good and the bad in all of those early settlers. Sarah Vowell is, however, an unabashedly liberal atheist and some readers may take issue with some of her witticisms and criticisms of contemporary politicians.
Throughout the book, Vowell keeps things moving along, blending the personal, religious, and political lives of her subjects into a book that introduces readers to an entirely different kind of Puritan than we are accustomed to reading about. By exploring these settlers and their times, Vowell makes something of a call to arms, for Americans to find what was right in those early notions and bring them forward to make our country the place that it might have been all along.