Book Thirty: Assassination Vacation

Assassination Vacation, Sarah Vowell

Woo hoo, my thirtieth book! Never mind I'm now eight solid weeks behind in my project, I still feel quite accomplished and hopeful that I'll ultimately reach my goal. Even if that means I spend the last week of the year hunkered down reading a book or two a day.

This was a nice little book, jam-packed with fun facts. While reading it, I had the John Hodgman/Jonathan Coulton ditty "Fast facts, fast facts Philadelphia, fast facts!" running through my head. A few things I learned from this book:

  • After shooting Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth yelled, "Sic semper tyrannis," which means "Thus always to tyrants," which also happens to be the state motto of Virginia, which is really quite gross, if you think about it. Timothy McVeigh was also wearing a t-shirt with this slogan written on it along with a picture of Lincoln, when he was arrested for the bombing of the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building. The company who made the t-shirt, along with other icky confederate-related items, sold out of this t-shirt quickly after McVeigh was seen wearing it, which is super-duper gross.
  • Robert Todd Lincoln, Lincoln's son, was present at or very close to the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. He was at his father's deathbed, witnessed Garfield being shot, and just arrived in Buffalo by train moments after McKinley was shot there. Sarah Vowell, at one point in the book, calls him Jinxy McDeath.
  • The guy who assassinated Garfield, Charles Guiteau, was, for a period, a member of the Oneida Community, a kind of free love commune thought up by this guy, Noyes, who wanted to have sex with lots of people, and probably, in my opinion, specifically young girls. Guiteau was not popular at the Oneida Community, and was apparently nicknamed "Charles Gitout." The Oneida Community eventually morphed into the corporation that now makes Oneida flatware and dishes.
  • Sarah Vowell talked about how cute one of the members of the Lincoln assassination conspiracy was, Lewis Thornton Powell, who was the guy who tried to kill Lincoln's Secretary of State, William H. Seward, but failed. As I read the book, I thought, "No way can an assassin be cute," but then I saw this picture and decided that I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Vowell, though I do feel a little icky about it.
  • McKinley's campaign manager, Mark Hanna, is who Karl Rove modeled his campaign strategies on. Which gives you a pretty good idea of how nasty Mark Hanna probably was. McKinley kind of sounded like a turd, too.

There's so so so much more in this book. Very highly recommended.


Blogger Rickey said...

There's a great Johnny Cash song about the assassination -- he recorded it, anyway; not sure if he wrote it -- called "Mister Garfield." I'm sure iTunes has it. It's on the "Songs of the True West" album, anyway.

September 23, 2007 at 2:01 PM  

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