May 7, 2005

President Garfield's "spine, removed during autopsy, was passed around to jurors during the trial of his assassin."

Now there's a lurid detail, extracted from Sarah Vowell's "Assassination Vacation," in this NYT review. It's a book about presidential assassins:
We learn ... that the canny thespian John Wilkes Booth, stalking Lincoln that fateful April evening at Ford's Theater, waited for a surefire laugh line to cover his shot; and that the line, a rejoinder in which a female character is dismissed as a ''sockdologizing old man trap,'' hasn't aged all that well. Still, as Vowell writes, ''it is a comfort of sorts to know that the bullet hit Lincoln mid-guffaw. . . . At least his last conscious moment was a hoot.''
I like Sarah Vowell -- from "This American Life" -- and am glad she'll get more attention for her books now that everyone loves her as the voice of Violet, from "The Incredibles." I was just seeing her on C-Span, promoting this book, and she was quite charming, with her cute but profound voice and her flat but expressive intonation.

(I'd buy this as an audiobook, but it's not available on CDs -- only cassette. Too bad!) [ADDED: That's wrong. It is on CD -- at the link provided. Sorry. I've ordered it.]

UPDATE: A reader notes that Vowell makes a special contribution to the deluxe "Incredibles" DVD set, in a piece called "Vowellet":
Author/cast member Sarah Vowell (NPR's This American Life) talks about her first foray into movie voice-overs--daughter Violet--and the unlikelihood of her being a superhero. The feature is unlike anything we've seen on a Disney or Pixar DVD extra, but who else would consider Abe Lincoln an action figure?
Sounds like the new book figures into that.


Simon Kenton said...

Not long after Lincoln's murder - 1869 and 1872 - Major John Wesley Powell and his men were exploring the Colorado River of the West. At the foot of Hance Rapid, the river leaves Marble Canyon; its regular and stately sandstones, shales, limestones, and quartzites tower higher and higher above, while the river quickly incises itself a thousand feet into the black and pegmatite-veined Precambrian schists of the Inner Gorge. The walls pinch in; shores are talus or vanish; black fluted walls rise sheer from the water. The impression is of extraordinary constriction, claustrophobia, and a somber beauty; these warped and anfractuous rocks formed half a planet's life ago.

Within a few miles Powell and his men met a rapid that could not be lined or portaged, a long continuous fall through heavy waves, studded with holes and boulders. With no apparent other choice, they rowed over the lip, and came out awash and alive long minutes later, having cascaded down many vertical feet.

They named it Sockdolager.

Ann Althouse said...

Simon: Wow!

Matt said...

You linked to it as available on CD. And I own it on CD to boot. It's a top-notch audiobook, not just because of Vowell's quirky voice, both as a writer and speaker, but because of her various guests and a very nice original score.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Matt. I don't know why I found that so hard to see. I've corrected the front page -- and ordered the audiobook.