Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sarah Vowell

I spend a lot of time behind the wheel of a car. When I'm on my own, I love to listen to books on tape. Well, a book on tape: Middlemarch. For some strange reason, no one wants to listen to Middlemarch with me in the car! What is UP with that?

So for our recent trip to the O.B., I bought The Wordy Shipmates from iTunes (even though I'm becoming more and more certain that Apple is eeeeevvvviiilllll). This, I thought, would appeal equally to me and my history-loving hubby.

I loved it more. But I love Sarah Vowell. I love how meticulously researched and organized her books are at the same she maintains this off-the-cuff, breezy narrative (which is SO hard to do). I love the way she really gets to know the people she writes about, and forms thoughtful opinions about them. For example, I know she doesn't much like Roger Williams - but she loves him. I love the way she uses Happy Days to illuminate how our preconceptions about history reflect our own present. Seriously. I LOVE that.

Can you imagine what history lessons would have been like in high school if you'd learned about the Puritans from Sarah Vowell instead of some text book?

Quick anecdote:

I'm a senior in high school. I'm in IB (advanced) history. Our teacher decides to show off a little by reciting the preamble to the Constitution. She ends with "... and for our prosperity." A girl says, "Um, it says 'posterity' here." The teacher says "Oh. They must have changed it." Seriously.

And even had my history teacher been competent, I bet she wouldn't have used Sarah Vowell in 1987 (mostly because Sarah Vowell was in her own senior history class in 1987).

Anyhoo - the point of all this: I love Sarah Vowell.