November 2008 Indie Next List
“As always, Vowell is darkly hilarious and freshly informative. She pokes fun at the buckle-shoed Puritans who first settled here, but she also tells a story of how their quirks, foibles, and love of words formed our country's personality. Her distinct and sharply witty voice makes this book an edifying delight.”
— Laura Delaney, The Rediscovered Bookshop, Boise, ID
"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.
About the Author
Sarah Vowell is the bestselling author of "The Wordy Shipmates," "Assassination Vacation," "The Partly Cloudy Patriot," "Take the Cannoli," and "Radio On." A contributing editor for public radio's "This American Life," she lives in New York City.