The Wordy Shipmates

by Sarah Vowell

From the author of Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, The Wordy Shipmates is New York Times bestselling 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.

  • Penguin Publishing Group; October 2008
  • ISBN: 9781440638695
  • Read online, or download in secure ePub format
  • Title: The Wordy Shipmates
  • Author: Sarah Vowell
  • Imprint: Riverhead Books

In The Press

"[Vowell's] a complex blend: part brilliant essayist, part pop-culture-loving comedian and a full-time unabashed history geek. The mixture makes her both proudly pointy-headed and forever entertaining."
-Seattle Times

"Sarah Vowell lends her engaging voice and keen powers of observation to a work of social history...Provid[ing] a glimpse of what life was really like for the people of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the founders of Plymouth."
-Los Angeles Times

"Vowell's words crackle on the printed page...smart, quirky and unabashedly incendiary...Vowell is very funny. She is generous as she wrestles with the moral intricacies of our nation's beginnings and how Puritan contradictions inform our sense of American exceptionalism today...The Wordy Shipmates is more than a punk-ish twist on our brave, verbose, tortured forebears, living in their new colony like 'an ashram in the woods.'"
-Cleveland Plain Dealer

"For those of us who'd rather harvest our history lessons from The Simpsons than the History Channel, Vowell is a latter-day hero...Fascinating."
-Elle

"Vowell...reads history with attitude, humor and sensitivity."
-Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"[Vowell exercises] her trademark sweet, silly, arch sense of the incongruous ways we memorialize the American past."
-Chicago Tribune


About The Author

Sarah Vowell is the bestselling author of The Wordy Shipmates, Assassination Vacation, The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Take the Cannoli, and Radio On. A contributing editor for public radio’s "This American Life", she lives in New York City.