The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Sarah Vowell (2002)

9 Jun

Sarah Vowell is a nerd, and she’s rather proud of it.  Not a skinny-jeans hipster kind of nerd, but a nerd that likes to read every word on every placard in a history museum, and then talk about everything she saw for the entire 4 hour drive home.  Vowell LOVES American history, and reading A Partly Cloudy Patriot is like having a cup of coffee with your friend, and chatting about her favorite subject.

Vowell wrote Patriot in the months after September 11, 2001, but the book does not beat you over the head with the patriotism of the moment.  In fact, with the exception of one chapter on the topic, it’s not obvious to the reader that the book was written so close in time to the tragedy.  The “Patriot” of Vowell’s world is neither gun toting nor chaw-spittin, but instead reflects on the accomplishments of Teddy Roosevelt, and explains the insulting absurdity of public figures’ love of comparing any act of civil disobedience to Rosa Parks (insulting to the true heroism of Rosa Parks’ act, that is).

Vowell is neither preachy nor boring.  Her chapters are short enough that as topic wanes, she switches to another.  Her tone is conversational and friendly. I read the book over 3 nights, so it was very quick going.  I’d like to read her other books, but there is not an urgent plot line compelling me to pick up the next one RIGHT NOW.

Vowell would be an entertaining pal.  If you’re not in the mood to pick up one of her many books, at least try to catch her fairly regular appearances on This American Life.


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