Homer's Travels: Book: Sarah Vowell's "The Wordy Shipmates"

Monday, December 28, 2009

Book: Sarah Vowell's "The Wordy Shipmates"

I have been a fan of Sarah Vowell ever since I heard her on This American Life. I have seen her in person twice before. On the radio, and in person, she has a dry wit and a funny delivery that is helped by her squeaky voice. In these short, limited doses, Vowell can be very entertaining. In a longer, written form, say, a book, her humor doesn't quite hold its own.

Sarah Vowell's latest, "The Wordy Shipmates" is the second book of her's that I've read. The first, "Assassination Vacation", which I reviewed here, was okay. It held my interest. "The Wordy Shipmates" was tougher. The book is about the puritans who settled the Boston area. I've never considered the puritans a funny bunch. Vowell tries her best to make the subject interesting and humorous but falls short. Even reading it in her voice doesn't help - after hearing her voice, it's impossible not to hear her reading the book in your head.

The book is a little repetitive, a fact that resulted in the Wife getting bored and not finishing the book. I finished it but I have to agree that Vowell rehashes things a lot. It's like she's talking to you and is worried that you may have forgotten what she said a few minutes ago. After doing that every few minutes, it would get old and this book doing it every few pages gets old as well.

I like Sarah Vowell but I've determined that I can only handle her in small portions. When her next book comes out, I will have think long and hard before I buy it.

Not recommended unless you have a puritan fetish. This was a let down for my last book of 2009 and my 18th book of the year.


  1. "Wordy Shipmates" was okay, but "Assassination Vacation" was definitely better.