Monday, March 16, 2009

The Wordy Shipmates

The Wordy Shipmates
© Sarah Vowell 2008
254 pages

I am a regular listener of NPR's This American Life, and one episode a couple of years ago called "What I Learned From Television" featured an author named Sarah Vowell commenting on the late CBS show Thanks, which attempted to portray -- in sitcom format -- a Puritan family. Vowell also managed to comment on the contemporary United States, much to the laughter and embarrassment of the live audience she was addressing. I liked her enough to read one of her books (Assassination Vacation), but The Wordy Shipmates -- about the same subject she addressed in that show -- had then not yet been released. I decided to give the book a ago this bring break.

The book is actually similar to Vowell's spot on This American Life. Vowell tells us the story of John Winthrop and the early years of his Massachusetts Bay colony: their commitment to build a shining city on a hill, their struggles settling, Winthrop's personality conflict with Roger Williams, his role in the Pequot war, and so on. While relating the story of the Puritans who settled with Winthrop, she connects what she writes to the contemporary United States and throws in a bit of a travel diary as well. The book was quite enjoyable.

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