Review: Assassination Vacation
September 25, 2006
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Assassination Vacation, by Sarah Vowell
8/10, a funny, educational tour through the tragic history of the country’s most dangerous job
Sarah Vowell is probably best known at this point for her work as Violet Parr in the Pixar movie “The Incredibles.” Before that, and since, she has been featured on NPR (“This American Life”) and has written several books. “Assassination Vacation” is the first thing I’ve read of hers, but I was immediately enamored of her wry manner, which is not quite self-deprecating, but more unabashedly self-revealing. Like David Foster Wallace, her quirks and foibles take center stage from the first anecdote, in which she regales an older tourist couple from Connecticut with her gushing review of the musical play “Assassins,” about the three men who killed the President of the United States in 1863, 1881, and 1901.
These three men form the core of her book, in conjunction with the men they killed. She says that the hubris required to kill a President is almost as much as is required to actually run for the office, which links the men together. Robert Todd Lincoln, the president’s son, is the other link between the three assassinations, having been present at all three. That and other fascinating facts, like the existence of a free love colony in upstate New York in the late 1800s, make this book a quick, engaging read, and Vowell’s voice is an entertaining companion throughout, though I admit I didn’t really imagine Violet reading it aloud until I listened to a sample of the audio book.