Public Radio International’s popular program This American Life is near perfect in its title. On a weekly basis, host Ira Glass and company explore various sides—often schizophrenic in their true-to-life contradictory nature—of this great nation of ours. Author Sarah Vowell counts herself proud to be among such company as a frequent contributor to the broadcast, and she rode the wave of her resulting notoriety to virtual Hollywood, voicing the broody teenage cartoon superhero Violet of The Incredibles.
But Vowell’s real shtick is taking an alternate yet passionate look at American history. In her collections of essays—Take the Cannoli: Stories from the New World, The Partly Cloudy Patriot and Assassination Vacation—Vowell makes subjects as heavy as the Trail of Tears, Gettysburg and a pilgrimage of presidential assassinations somehow more interesting, intriguing and entertaining than they really should be. In fact, one great act of hers is reading an essay about “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” while being accompanied by musicians— such as Death Cab for Cutie—as she chronicles the popular misinterpretation and patriotic reinvigoration of the song as a national battle cry. Such is the amazing hipster cred that This American Life brings Sarah Vowell.
And she’s not nearly done. Vowell’s latest exploration into all things American historical—The Wordy Shipmates—is another collection of essays true to form in which she explores the Puritans’ colonizing of Massachusetts with surprisingly amusing aplomb.
Sarah Vowell @ Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City, 435-655-3114 Saturday, April 18, 7:30 p.m. EcclesCenter.org.