Sunday, December 28, 2008

Assassination Vacation or Imperial Life in the Emerald City

Assassination Vacation

Author: Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrums of American history and culture with wit, probity, and an irreverent sense of humor. With Assassination Vacation, she takes us on a road trip like no other--a journey to the pit stops of American political murder and through the myriad ways they have been used for fun and profit, for political and cultural advantage.

From Buffalo to Alaska, Washington to the Dry Tortugas, Vowell visits locations immortalized and influenced by the spilling of politically important blood, reporting as she goes with her trademark blend of wisecracking humor, remarkable honesty, and thought-provoking criticism. We learn about the jinx that was Robert Todd Lincoln (present at the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) and witness the politicking that went into the making of the Lincoln Memorial. The resulting narrative is much more than an entertaining and informative travelogue--it is the disturbing and fascinating story of how American death has been manipulated by popular culture, including literature, architecture, sculpture, and--the author's favorite--historical tourism.

Though the themes of loss and violence are explored and we make detours to see how the Republican Party became the Republican Party, there are lighter diversions into the lives of the three presidents and their assassins, including mummies, show tunes, mean-spirited totem poles, and a nineteenth-century biblical sex cult.

IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE:

Conan O'Brien Robert Todd Lincoln
Eric Bogosian John Wilkes Booth
Stephen King President Abraham Lincoln
Dave Eggers Mike Ryan
Catherine Keener Gretchen Worden
Jon Stewart President James A. Garfield
Tony Kushner John Humphrey Noyes
Brad Bird Charles Guiteau & Emma Goldman
Daniel Handler President William McKinley
Greg Giraldo President Theodore Roosevelt
David Rakoff Leon Czolgosz

The New York Times - Bruce Handy

Having made the commercially courageous decision to avoid the catnip that is the Kennedy name, Vowell restricts her gaze to America's first three presidential murders: those of Abraham Lincoln, Garfield and William McKinley. Mixing travelogue, history, personal essay and social criticism, she follows the loose formula perfected in two previous collections of magazine pieces and adapted versions of her appearances on public radio's ''This American Life,'' where she is a regular.

Library Journal

Vowell visits assassination sites throughout the country to consider how political violence gets manipulated. With a 13-city tour including some of the stops along her way? Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Vowell has a perspective on American history that is definitely funny. She visits museums, historic sites, statues, libraries, anything remotely relevant to successful presidential assassins, and a few of those not so successful. This is an amusing way to learn history, but it is also an unusual look at the interconnectedness of things. Robert Todd Lincoln, "a.k.a. Jinxy McDeath," was present, or nearly so, at three assassinations-his father's, Garfield's, and McKinley's. To understand Garfield's assassin, the author spends time at the Oneida Colony in upstate New York, a religious commune that preached a combination of free love and the second coming, and connects it with Jonathan Edwards. She tracks the Lincoln conspirators through the process of plot and escape to hanging and imprisonment, even describing Dr. Mudd's enormous contribution when the plague hit the prison island of Dry Tortuga. Garfield's assassin was deeply involved in the redirection of the Republican Party after the Civil War, and McKinley's was an anarchist following, he thought, the tenets of Emma Goldman. There are family anecdotes and real scholarship in this quirky road trip. Teens will get an interesting view of one aspect of American history while picking up odd bits of information about a whole lot more. There is much to enjoy in this discursive yet somehow cohesive book.-Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.



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Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone

Author: Rajiv Chandrasekaran

The Green Zone, Baghdad, 2003: in this walled-off compound of swimming pools and luxurious amenities, Paul Bremer and his Coalition Provisional Authority set out to fashion a new, democratic Iraq. Staffed by idealistic aides chosen primarily for their views on issues such as abortion and capital punishment, the CPA spent the crucial first year of occupation pursuing goals that had little to do with the immediate needs of a postwar nation: flat taxes instead of electricity and deregulated health care instead of emergency medical supplies.

In this acclaimed firsthand account, the former Baghdad bureau chief of The Washington Post gives us an intimate portrait of life inside this Oz-like bubble, which continued unaffected by the growing mayhem outside. This is a quietly devastating tale of imperial folly, and the definitive history of those early days when things went irrevocably wrong in Iraq.

The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani

Mr. Chandrasekaran, an assistant managing editor of The Washington Post and the paper's former Baghdad bureau chief, spent nearly two years reporting from Iraq, and in Imperial Life in the Emerald City he draws a vividly detailed portrait of the Green Zone and the Coalition Provisional Authority…that becomes a metaphor for the administration's larger failings in Iraq…By focusing closely on the goals, initiatives and missteps of individuals involved in the Coalition Provisional Authority, Mr. Chandrasekaran is able to re-examine the mix of motives involved in the American invasion and the roles that hubris, idealism and denial played in shaping the occupation. His book gives the reader a visceral—sometimes sickening—picture of how the administration and its handpicked crew bungled the first year in postwar Iraq, showing how decisions made in that period contributed to a burgeoning insurgency and growing ethnic and religious strife.

The New York Times Book Review - Michael Goldfarb

It would have been worthwhile if Chandrasekaran had given us a greater sense of what he thought about overthrowing Hussein and, more to the point, what he felt upon returning to Washington after having seen the bloody result of its policies. But that is a philosophical difference I have with the author. This is a clearly written, blessedly undidactic book. It should be read by anyone who wants to understand how things went so badly wrong in Iraq.

Publishers Weekly

As the Baghdad bureau chief for the Washington Post, Chandrasekaran has probably spent more time in U.S.-occupied Iraq than any other American journalist, and his intimate perspective permeates this history of the Coalition Provisional Authority headquartered in the Green Zone around Saddam Hussein's former palace. He presents the tenure of presidential viceroy L. Paul Bremer between May 2003 and June 2004 as an all-too-avoidable disaster, in which an occupational administration selected primarily for its loyalty to the Bush administration routinely ignored the reality of local conditions until, as one ex-staffer puts it, "everything blew up in our faces." Chandrasekaran unstintingly depicts the stubborn cluelessness of many Americans in the Green Zone-like the army general who says children terrified by nighttime helicopters should appreciate "the sound of freedom." But he sympathetically portrays others trying their best to cut through the red tape and institute genuine reforms. He also has a sharp eye for details, from casual sex in abandoned offices to stray cats adopted by staffers, which enable both advocates and critics of the occupation to understand the emotional toll of its circuslike atmosphere. Thanks to these personal touches, the account of the CPA's failures never feels heavy-handed. (Sept. 22) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

What People Are Saying


"Rajiv Chandrasekaran has not given us "another Iraq book." He has given us a riveting tale of American misadventure. . . . He shows us American idealism and voyeurism, as well as the deadly results of American hubris. And by giving us the first full picture from inside the Green Zone, he depicts a mission doomed to failure before it had even been launched."
---Samantha Power, author of A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide

"This is a dazzling, important, and entertaining work of reportage about the American civilians who tried to remake Iraq, and about the strange, isolated city-state in Baghdad where they failed. Every American who wants to understand how and why things went so badly wrong in Iraq should read this book."
---Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars

"This amazing book pulls back the curtains of deception and reveals in stunning fashion what really went on inside the Emerald City in the crucial year after the military overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Chandrasekaran's reporting is vivid and relentless as he documents the mix of idealism, confidence, energy, hubris, political miscalculation, cultural blindness, and fantastical thinking of those who came to save Iraq yet made a difficult situation worse."
---David Maraniss, author of They Marched Into Sunlight

"An extraordinarily vivid and compelling anatomy of a fiasco. Imperial Life in the Emerald City is an indispensable saga of how the American liberation of Iraq turned to chaos, calamity, and civil war. Chandrasekaran takes us inside Baghdad's Green Zone as no one else has."
---Rick Atkinson, author of The Long Gray Line




Table of Contents:
Map of the Green Zone
Prologue
PART ONE-BUILDING THE BUBBLE
1 Versailles on the Tigris
2 A Deer in the Headlights
The Green Zone, Scene
3 You're in Charge!
The Green Zone, Scene II
4 Control Freak
The Green Zone, Scene III
5 Who Are These People?
The Green Zone, Scene IV
6 We Need to Rethink This
The Green Zone, Scene V
7 Bring a Duffel Bag
The Green Zone, Scene VI
8 A Yearning for Old Times
PART TWO-SHATTERED DREAMS
9 Let This Be Over
The Green Zone, Scene VII
10 The Plan Unravels
The Green Zone, Scene VIII
11 A Fool's Errand
The Green Zone, Scene IX
12 We Cannot Continue Like This
The Green Zone, Scene X
13 Missed Opportunities
The Green Zone, Scene XI
14 Breaking the Rules
The Green Zone, Scene XII
15 Crazy, If Not Suicidal
The Green Zone, Scene XIII
16 Lot Left to Be Done
Epilogue
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

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