I must admit that part of the draw of this book, for me, was that I’d just seen The Godfather so I felt very in the know when I read the title. In addition to geeking out about the awesomeness that is The Godfather I’ve read Sarah Vowell before and have always enjoyed her. The other books that I’ve read, Assassination Vacation and Unfamiliar Fishes were both books that focused on a moment (or as the case with Assassination Vacation several similar moments) in history. Sarah Vowell is a historian, after all. This book, however, was a collection of essays that have been previously published and used for various radio productions (namely This American Life.) History was still a part of this book but we also got a view of Sarah Vowell herself.
I’ll always love Sarah Vowell’s writing voice and tone. She’s very witty, wry, and I don’t know that deadpan is something that can come across in writing, but her humor feels like it’d be deadpan. Her essays all have at least a hint of historical facts and narratives in them, which makes sense given how large a part in her life they play, given she’s a historian, but they go more into how she’s relating to history and what that history means about her and her country.
In the essay What I See When I Look At The $20 Bill, she takes us along The Trail of Tears with her and her sister, who are both part Cherokee. She gives us the facts and the story of the Trail of Tears, but we also see her rage about The Trail of Tears happening in the first place. An interesting moment was when she’s talking to a tour guide at Andrew Jackson’s plantation and she talks about feeling a lot of rage towards Andrew Jackson because he was essentially the architect for the The Trail of Tears, but the tour guide was very nice and making it hard to be spiteful.
Powerful people do terrible things and years later our lives are completely different than they would’ve been. How do we square with that? How does that change how we view our country and our own place within our country? Everybody’s answer will be different and complex. I don’t know that Sarah Vowell necessarily answers that question in Take The Cannoli but it was interesting to see her work in the direction of an answer.