Friday, December 04, 2009

Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell claims that she is a boring person who would rather be alone with a book than be anywhere else, except maybe visiting a historical site where something that is still being discussed occurred, such as the room in which Abraham Lincoln polished up the Gettysburg Address. Though a self-proclaimed bookworm, she is very connected to popular culture through broadcast media and the Internet, as well as through her beloved books. She seems to notice and remember everything. She also seems to have plenty of friends who accompany her to witness inaugurations and other historical events. I can imagine that talking with her being would be frenetic and at times awkward, as she would probably take the conversation in an unexpected direction, but "boring person" is not a label that I can imagine being applied.

I have just enjoyed listening to Partly Cloudy Patriot, written and read by Vowell, with the assistance of a number of actors reading quotations from a variety of American characters. These men (I do not remember there being any women) all play straight men to Vowell's comic genius, even Stephen Colbert as Al Gore. The audiobook is also enhanced with quirky made-to-order music from They Might Be Giants. Topics range from history, current events, and pop culture. Readers learn about Vowell's growing up in Oklahoma and Montana and discover that she is a Dallas Cowboys fan, as well as a "Big D" Democrat who worked for the Michael Dukakis campaign. One of her chief complaints is the tendency of the public to label any politician who is academically gifted as a nerd who should be laughed out of public service. She is a nerd and wants nerds to rule.

All of this was written before Barack Obama became a nationally well-known figure. Vowell never mentions him in this older collection of her essays. I enjoyed traveling back in time with Vowell on my iPod. She made cooking and commuting more fun.

Vowell, Sarah. The Partly Cloudy Patriot. Simon & Schuster, 2003. 5 CDs. ISBN 0743533488

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