The Wordy Shipmates are Indeed Wordy

April 11, 2012

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.


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