The Tittering Traveler

Sarah Vowell
Sarah Vowell is a refreshing voice in Non-Fiction, specifically History. She always strives for the alternate view, inserting herself smack in the middle of these, what I would call, extended essays, many of which unfold in untrodden territory.  Her audio books feature her own quirky delivery I'd first admired on NPR radio. At times listening to her work, I've found myself laughing out loud... in my car... by myself; an activity some might feel self-conscious about, but one by which I measure the quality of many of my audio books. She makes good narrative use of many of her professional colleagues, comedic or elsewise, voice talent such as Nick Offerman, Bobby Carnavale, and Fred Armisen, to name a few.

In her latest effort, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, the subject is the Marquis de Lafayette, an American patriot of French descent; arrived on our shores as a mere enfant, still a teenager and raring to throw his chapeau into the ring against the monarchy next door. The difference here is that Vowell focuses on Lafayette's return to America forty years after the American Revolutionary War, in the process, illuminating just how divided the country was, even in the 1820's; a portent of events to come. She reminds readers just how much Colonial America depended on the French Navy to bring our revolution to a close in 1783; how after the defeat of General Washington's Army in New York it had seemed our rebellion was defeated. Lafayette, fearless ideologue as he was, became one of the catalysts for this French alliance, he was universally loved and revered by Americans at the time of his adopted-home-coming in the early 19th century, evident in the myriad towns, cities, counties, schools, thoroughfares, etc... that bear his sobriquet to this day.

Vowell brings relevancy and verve to American History 101, revealing the truth, humanity and of course the irony inherent in the American experience. She accomplishes this with a kind of dead pan aplomb, a wry humor, which will have you all atitter in your auto, and leave those gawking fellow travelers jealous.


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