Sarah Vowell writes this work historical musing.  Now, initially, there’s a notion that has the irrational side of my brain edging to the nearest exit.  Her initial topic of interest are the Puritans residing in 1620 Plymouth and the Salem of 1692.  And every Sarah Good betwixt those periods.  Again, this is yawn-worthy stuff.  I’m yawning right now just thinking about those things.  Then Vowell surprises readers with both her extensive knowledge on relevant media goings-on of her own upbringing and that of today.   She dances from this subject to more recent issues such as Reagan’s funeral and back again.  In doing so, she covers a range of historical folly and does so with clumsy grace.  There’s a relation drawn between the misconceptions of Puritan individuals to the popular media and lessons learned in elementary school; delineating their visible struggles to that which are just beneath the public eye.

In this way, Vowell has created a piece that is unquestionably long—but she never loses her own contemporary voice as a writer.  It seems as though she isn’t speaking for that period at all, but rather how it affects today.  It reads almost as an argument between two egos.  Her commentaries shine with a special gleam not unlike poison glazed over the surface of an apple.  Beneath the playful banter she cooks up for historians, there’s this unwillingness to cave or allow her audience to not understand the truths that she’s acquired via research.


Vowell, Sarah. The Wordy Shipmates. New York: Riverhead, 2008. 1-72. Print.


How far is too far in satiating one’s hunger?  On the surface, it’s a basic enough requirement in sustaining life.  David Foster Wallace addresses the inquiry of unnecessary violence against sentient beings in his 2004 article “Consider the Lobster”.  Specifically, he addresses the Main Lobster Festival’s family-fun-food (three F’s) and the possibility of it being little more than barbaric.  The ordinary experience of attending one such ceremony is; arguably, very mundane.  Wallace begins by boring his audience to death for two pages or so about the theatrics behind the MLF itself.  Then he spirals away into a topic much more thought-provoking.

What makes this piece such a good read isn’t the author’s impressive knowledge on just what a lobster would be defined as or how it relates to the common spider in appearance and functionality.  When he’s able to get away the mechanics and speak about the big (or little, more accurately speaking) picture, his rhetoric is beyond intriguing.  Does a lobster able to process the obviously excruciating occurrence of being boiled alive?  This is the epitome of one’s morality being brought into question.  If they can, what kind of person is able to ignore that suffering for a meal that could easily be acquired in less inhumane matters.  A line that I find to be endlessly resonant is this:

A related set of concerns: Is the previous question irksomely PC or sentimental? What does “all right” even mean in this context? Is it all just a matter of individual choice?

He even pulls back to an aside in lieu of the question to say, who cares?  Does what’s considered wrong to one person even matter to another?  As the article unfolds, Wallace strains the capability of his intellect to search for these answers.  Even by the conclusion, he doesn’t give the readers his final opinion outright; and noticeably hops from one side of that line to the other all throughout the text.  For me, that’s the cake-taking attribute of “Consider the Lobster”.  Because that’s exactly what one does throughout the entire proverbial journey.  The information is there, the difference of popular opinions are there; but I as a reader was prompted to come up with my own verdict.



Klosterman writes about Barry Bonds’ unfair success in America’s Favorite Pastime in his 2006 article in ESPN the Magazine.  The main topic he broaches is on the use of performance enhancing drugs: specifically in the case of Bonds.  Normally, talk of either sports or steroids are the two things in which I personally have very little interest.  But somehow, I was enthralled to finish this entry in its entirety before throwing together a response.  Now, this blogger has to wonder: What makes this article unique and worth the read?

My answer to that is Klosterman’s approach on the world, its populations’ ability to tinker with history, and also how he defines the undercurrent of statistics that set baseball aside from other sports.  What I really dug about this article was how the 2000 election was brought into question as a form of comparison to this situation.  Everyone just adapted and bought George W. Bush’s victory when it was unfair and made very little sense.  Granted, we were all a little more than shaken up from the World Trade Center’s devastation.  But, understanding how quick society can be to put their logical feelings on a shelf in this case helps to understand how the same is going for the use of steroids here.

Klosterman also brings to the table how Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s apparent drug abuse was also ignored.  This goes along with how easily history can be rewired in the heads of Americans.  The way it goes; it was ignored then and thus allowed to slide by now.  And this only works to take down this formality of baseball statistics—brick by brick—by nullifying the success of honest players.  The consensus is that George Herman “Babe” Ruth Jr.’s success will one day be buried beneath that of an unfair physical advantage.  And that, ladies and gents; is a scary notion.


Klosterman. “BONDS VS. AMERICA.” ESPN the Magazine Apr. 2006. Print.