The Partly Cloudy Patriot, by Sarah Vowell

I said on the Twitters the other day that I don’t know whether I want to marry Ms. Vowell or be her when I grow up. But after finishing up this book and starting in on her next, Assassination Vacation, I think I just want to hang out with her and go on strange adventures on an irregular basis. She’s delightfully quirky, but I’m not sure I could actually be friends with her.

I picked this book up for many reasons, but the main ones are that Vowell has a new book out, I’ve never read one of her books, and I’ve heard that the new one is a little odder than her others so it made more sense to back up and wade into the pool that is Sarah Vowell. Whatever that means.

And let’s be honest, I loved it. It merited the Twitter mention as well as three quotes in a row on my Tumblr… I found myself cracking up in the middle of work and hoping that no one asked what was going on, because it would be too hard to explain.

Part of it is the subject matter… this book is a collection of essays mostly about politics and patriotism, which haven’t changed terribly much save in name in the last nine years. Vowell is a capital-D Democrat, so she spends a few essays proclaiming her love for Bill Clinton and Al Gore and her distaste for George W. Bush. But there’s no proselytizing, just an acknowledgement of her politics and her involvement in the political institution. And outside of politics proper, Vowell includes some essays about the underground lunchroom in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, the current practice of declaring everyone a Rosa Parks, and playing that one basketball game in the arcade.

The other part is Sarah Vowell. I listened to the audiobook, which is primarily narrated by her, with brief cameos from others (like Stephen Colbert as Al Gore), and so each essay is imbued with Vowell’s inflections and emphases. Considering her often sarcastic nature, I can imagine that these essays might come across rather differently in print, so I’m glad I went in for the audio. It’s sort of like hanging out with Sarah Vowell, right?

Recommendation: Highly recommended, unless you’re smitten with George W. Bush.

Rating: 9/10
(A to Z Challenge)

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