Sarah Vowell – The Wordy Shipmates

The Wordy Shipmates is New York Times best-selling author Sarah Vowell’s exploration of the Puritans and their journey to America to become the people of John Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” – a shining example, a “city that cannot be hid.”

To this day, America views itself as a Puritan nation, but Vowell investigates what that means – and what it should mean. What was this great political enterprise all about? Who were these people who are considered the philosophical, spiritual, and moral ancestors of our nation? What Vowell discovers is something far different from what their uptight shoe-buckles-and-corn reputation might suggest. The people she finds are highly literate, deeply principled, and surprisingly feisty. Their story is filled with pamphlet feuds, witty courtroom dramas, and bloody vengeance. Along the way she asks:

Was Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop a communitarian, a Christlike Christian, or conformity’s tyrannical enforcer? Answer: Yes!

Was Rhode Island’s architect, Roger Williams, America’s founding freak or the father of the First Amendment? Same difference.

What does it take to get that jezebel Anne Hutchinson to shut up? A hatchet.

What was the Puritans’ pet name for the Pope? The Great Whore of Babylon.

Sarah Vowell’s special brand of armchair history makes the bizarre and esoteric fascinatingly relevant and fun. She takes us from the modern-day reenactment of an Indian massacre to the Mohegan Sun casino, from old-timey Puritan poetry, where “righteousness” is rhymed with “wilderness,” to a Mayflower-themed waterslide. Throughout, The Wordy Shipmates is rich in historical fact, humorous insight, and social commentary by one of America’s most celebrated voices. Thou shalt enjoy it.

Author: Sarah Vowell
Narrator: Sarah Vowell
Duration: 7 hours 15 minutes
Released: 8 Feb 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Language: English

User Review:

laborer noisy

This is wonderful. I am biased. I love neurotic, intelligent, sarcastic women. Oh baby. It’s a good thing I encountered this in audio format because my eyes kept rolling back in my head at the sheer wonderfullness of it.

She isn’t intimidated by history, and she brings history alive in a quirky and relevant way. She enhances the narrative with just the right amount of historical context, and then shows how politicians today are influenced by these characters even today.

I think if you like “The Daily Show” you will like this. Oh, and if you like “This American Life.” You don’t have to like both, just one will do.

On the quibble front, the interspersing of quotes didn’t work as well as it could have. It left Ms. Vowell sounding like she was at the end of her sentence when it was the middle. I suggest she read the full sentence and the audio engineer insert the actors’ voices, so it sounds like she is a really good mimic rather than she stopped and someone else started.