Monday, November 24, 2008

Masked Mom's Media Monday: The Wordy Shipmates

[In honor of NaBloPoMo (read: because I was such an idiot as to commit to posting daily), Masked Mom's Media Monday makes its triumphant (albeit likely very temporary) return.]

I was reading Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates at work last week when Cranky Boss Lady glanced over and said, "What's that about?"

I answered, "The Puritans."

She cringed. "Isn't it boring?" I thought at first it was kind of a silly question because, well Cranky Boss Lady was asking it, and since if I found it boring I likely wouldn't have been halfway through the book and so absorbed in it that I was having a hard time putting it down to actually do my job. But the truth is I'd never found the Puritans all that fascinating and the main reason I'd picked up the book was Sarah Vowell's name on the cover. Frankly, I'd follow Vowell to just about any topic she'd want to cover.

And even in this subject, the (allegedly) boring Puritans, Vowell did not disappoint:

"By March, good old Miantonomi sends Boston a tribute of 'forty fathom of wampum and a Pequot's hand,' severed body parts being the seventeenth-century equivalent of a gift basket of mini-muffins."

"Mason is triumphant. After all, this is the will of a righteous God. He praises the Lord for 'burning them up in the fire of his wrath, and dunging the ground with their flesh: It is the Lord's doings, and it is marvelous in our eyes!' That might be the creepiest exclamation point in American literature. No, wait--it's this one: 'Thus did the Lord judge among the heathen, filling the place with their dead bodies!'"

In between smart-ass commentary about the Puritans, Vowell fits in lots of information and even some smart-ass commentary about herself:

"I wish I didn't undertand why Hutchinson risks damning herself to exile and excommunication just for the thrill of shooting off her mouth and making other people listen up. But this here book is evidence that I have this confrontational, chatty bent myself."

And in her usual way, she painlessly sneaks in lessons about how we came to think America is the greatest nation on earth and how, while it might be true, it can be a horribly dangerous notion when taken to extremes.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Enlightening.

*Or at least pretend a little harder to be doing my job--though, frankly, a lot of my job lately actually seems to consist entirely of pretending--pretending to be fascinated by the tales of CBL's newest relationship; pretending not to be panicked by the latest round of economic news and what it means for a luxury industry like ours; pretending to have any respect for CBL's opinions on business, politics, religion or any other topic at all; pretending not to want to duct tape CBL's ever-yammering mouth shut...


  1. Youngest Sister11/25/08, 10:11 AM

    I haven't been able to read it but I'm dying to. I loved Assassination Vacation but try to explain that one to someone. "She, uh, takes a summer and goes around visiting the historical sites related to presidents that were assassinated." Oh, okay, I'll run right out and get THAT book. The new one sounds great, even if it is about Puritans.

  2. There was actually a waiting list at the library--for a book about Puritans! 'Nuff said.