The Wordy Shipmates

The Wordy Shipmates

Book - 2008
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"The Wordy Shipmates" is "New York Times"?bestselling author Sarah Vowell's exploration of the Puritans and their journey to America to become the people of John Winthrop's ?city upon a hill a shining example, a ?city that cannot be hid.?
To this day, America views itself as a Puritan nation, but Vowell investigates what that means? and what it should mean. What was this great political enterprise all about? Who were these people who are considered the philosophical, spiritual, and moral ancestors of our nation? What Vowell discovers is something far different from what their uptight shoe-buckles-and- corn reputation might suggest. The people she finds are highly literate, deeply principled, and surprisingly feisty. Their story is filled with pamphlet feuds, witty courtroom dramas, and bloody vengeance. Along the way she asks:
* Was Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop a communitarian, a Christlike Christian, or conformity's tyrannical enforcer? "Answer: Yes "
* Was Rhode Island's architect, Roger Williams, America's founding freak or the father of the First Amendment? "Same difference."
* What does it take to get that jezebel Anne Hutchinson to shut up? "A hatchet."
* What was the Puritans? pet name for the Pope? "The Great Whore of Babylon."
Sarah Vowell's special brand of armchair history makes the bizarre and esoteric fascinatingly relevant and fun. She takes us from the modern-day reenactment of an Indian massacre to the Mohegan Sun casino, from old-timey Puritan poetry, where ?righteousness? is rhymed with ?wilderness, ? to a Mayflower-themed waterslide. Throughout, "The Wordy Shipmates" is rich in historical fact, humorous insight, and social commentary by one of America's most celebrated voices. Thou shalt enjoy it.
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2008.
ISBN: 9781594489990
Branch Call Number: 974.0882 VOWELL S
Characteristics: 254 pages : illustrations, map ; 22 cm.


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Jul 10, 2016

The description of this book says it all. Sarah Vowell's style rocks. Sardonic at many times, but honest in subject matter, and her own views about said subjects. Highly recommended for people interested in early American history and the ironies of 17th Century faith-based politics.

Rahimah6 Jan 26, 2013

I'lI admit that I was forced to read this book for an English class in college. But luckily for a history book it was *really* quite good. Even if your not a history buff, you'll enjoy it; forced to read it or not.

Jun 12, 2012

I adore Sarah Vowell but her histories are more my speed than the personal narratives.

Harriet_the_Spy Mar 11, 2011

An inspired, hysterically funny and heartbreaking work of popular history. Being Canadian, I knew nothing about the Puritans to begin with, but it seems that Vowell is determined to undo the misrepresentations of the Puritan era that have made Americans dismiss this part of their history. I read this not long after Ronald Wrights' more sober (and also excellent) "What is America?" and feel I understand our neighbour to the south much better now.

Dec 06, 2009

I generally have three to four books going at once, which is why I'm not a particularly fast reader: one for the bedside, one for the bus, one in the bathroom, and an audio book in the kitchen. The bus book has been long neglected, due to the bus strike, but one of my "prize" books The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell, started in the bathroom, then was promoted to the bedside. I've "read" a Sarah Vowell book before, an audio-book version of Assassination Vacation read by the author herself in all her flat-affect, nasal glory, with the help of several famous friends, including Conan O'Brien and Stephan King, and so I thought I'd probably find reading her rambling take on the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the seventeenth century more amusing, as opposed to listening to her voyage through the untimely deaths of four US presidents by assassins.

And indeed for the first part of this book, she is very funny (gotta love a girl who refers to the Second Book of Samuel in the Bible as an "R-rated chronicle of King David's serial-killer years"), with very topical humour, referencing recent events and lots of TV shows, which probably means this book won't age particularly well. As we soldier on into the horrors of massacres (the Pequot nation murdering English settlers because they think they're the Dutch settlers who have been murdering them, so the English settlers trap them in their village and shoot and burn them....), executions and mutilations, her humour starts to flag somewhat. However, this is understandable, and the book is interesting and accessible (for now; later generations probably won't get her crack about "Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay").

As in Assassination Vacation she also goes for some easy (okay, cheap) laughs, that is, poking fun at Canada. "Why is America the last best hope of Earth?" she worries at one point. "What if it's Liechtenstein? Or worse, Canada?" Oddly enough, she also says: ". . . 'A Model of Christian Charity' is one of the formative documents outlining the idea of America. But dig deep into its communitarian ethos and it reads more like an America that might have been, an America fervently devoted to the quaint goals of working together and getting along. This America already exists. It's called Canada." Well, thanks for the compliment, Ms Vowell, but both statements neatly illustrate that you know dick about us...

Despite its clunky title and oddly detached conclusion, it's an informative read, particularly since I'd never heard of Anne Hutchinson until stumbling upon a biography about her last year, which (sigh) I failed to finish when it became due at the library -- as I've said, I don't read nearly fast enough.


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