Monday, October 13, 2008

The Wordy Shipmates

Full disclosure time first. 6 months ago I read Nathan Philbrick's book Mayflower. So perhaps more than most people I'm somewhat familiar with this period of American History, 1630-1692 that Sarah Vowell is tackling in this new offering. And what's more, I'm a Calvinist; an active member of a conservative Presbyterian church where I've studied Calvinism and can name the 5 points (TULIP) and where we regularly use the Puritan Valley of Vision for our confessions. I've also read the entire Bible three times and engage in regular Bible study. So again more than most people I have a working knowledge of the modern successor of the religious views of the day. In sum, this wasn't a totally new topic for me.

I really wanted to like this book, and at times I did, but mostly I didn't because, boy this book was an organizational mess. I could never understand what Ms. Vowell was going for. I never understood what drew her to the topic of the Puritans in the first place, what exactly she wanted to impart to us, nor how she intended to get from point A to point B. Vowell's witty commentary on the Puritans was funny when it happened, but organizationally this book was like a hurricane. John Winthrop sat in the center and others swirled around him, but there was no overarching narrative in this book and I found that very, very distracting. Rather than read this book, I'd recommend you stream the story about Thanksgiving, Happy Days and The Brady Bunch from This American Life's website. That 10 minutes is pretty much the highlight of this subject.

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