Quotes from Assassination Vacation

Sarah Vowell ·  270 pages

Rating: (35.5K votes)


“Like Lincoln, I would like to believe the ballot is stronger than the bullet. Then again, he said that before he got shot.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“Except for the people who were there that one day they discovered the polio vaccine, being part of history is rarely a good idea. History is one war after another with a bunch of murders and natural disasters in between.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“But when I am around strangers, I turn into a conversational Mount St. Helens. I'm dormant, dormant, quiet, quiet, old-guy loners build log cabins on the slopes of my silence and then, boom, it's 1980. Once I erupt, they'll be wiping my verbal ashes off their windshields as far away as North Dakota.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“You know you've reached a new plateau of group mediocrity when even a Canadian is alarmed by your lack of individuality.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“That's what I like to call him, "the current president." I find it difficult to say or type his name, George W. Bush. I like to call him "the current president" because it's a hopeful phrase, implying that his administration is only temporary.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation



“Robert Todd Lincoln, a.k.a. Jinxy McDeath.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“The people who visit the [Lincoln] memorial always look like an advertisement for democracy, so bizarrely, suspiciously diverse that one time I actually saw a man in a cowboy hat standing there reading the Gettysburg Address next to a Hasidic Jew. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had linked arms with a woman in a burka and a Masai warrior, to belt out ‘It’s a Small World After All,’ flanked by a chorus line of nuns and field-tripping, rainbow-skinned schoolchildren”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“However, displayed right alongside all the Confederate flag paraphernalia is a bunch of American flag merch – American flag place mats, patriotic “body crystals,” flag stickers you attach to your skin. Personally, I’m small-minded and literal enough that I see the two symbols as contradictory, especially in a time of war. But I fear that the consumer who buys a Confederate flag coffee cup, which she will then put on her American flag place mat, is the sort of sophisticated thinker who is open-minded enough that she is capable of hating blacks and Arabs at the same time.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“Until that moment, I hadn’t realized that I embarked on the project of touring historic sites and monuments having to do with the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley right around the time my country iffily went off to war, which is to say right around the time my resentment of the current president cranked up into contempt. Not that I want the current president killed. Like that director, I will, for the record (and for the FBI agent assigned to read this and make sure I mean no harm – hello there), clearly state that while I am obsessed with death, I am against it.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“Owen is the most Hitchcockian preschooler I ever met. He's three. He knows maybe ninety word and one of them is 'crypt'?”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation



“If there is a recurring theme in Garfield’s diaries it’s this: I’d rather be reading.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“With a century and change between the 1880 convention and now, I’ll admit I rolled my eyes at the ideological hairsplitting, wondering how a group of people who more or less agreed with one another about most issues could summon forth such stark animosity. Thankfully, we Americans have evolved, our hearts made larger, our minds more open, welcoming the negligible differences among our fellows with compassion and respect. As a Democrat who voted for Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election, an election suspiciously tipped to tragic Republican victory because of a handful of contested ballots in the state of Florida, I, for one, would never dream of complaining about the votes siphoned in that state by my fellow liberal Ralph Nader, who convinced citizens whose hopes for the country differ little from my own to vote for him, even though had those votes gone to Gore, perhaps those citizens might have spent their free time in the years to come more pleasurably pursuing leisure activities, such as researching the sacrifice of Family Garfield, instead of attending rallies and protests against wars they find objectionable, not to mention the money saved on aspirin alone considering they’ll have to pop a couple every time they read the newspaper, wondering if the tap water with which they wash down the pills is safe enough to drink considering the corporate polluter lobbyists now employed at the EPA.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“History is one war after another with a bunch of murders and natural disasters in between.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“It goes without saying that in order for me to buy a teapot at the Oneida, Ltd., outlet store at the Sherrill Shopping Plaza, the second coming of Jesus Christ had to have taken place in the year 70 A.D. To the Oneida Community, 70 A.D., the year the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, marks the beginning of the New Jerusalem. Which means we’ve all been living in heaven on earth for nearly two thousand years. Everyone knows there is no marriage in heaven (though one suspects there’s no shortage of it in hell). So, the Oneidans said, we’re here in heaven, already saved and perfect in the eyes of God, so let’s move upstate and sleep around. (I’m paraphrasing.)”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“I told her that my happy yellow teapot has a kinky backstory involving a nineteenth-century vegetarian sex cult in upstate New York whose members lived for three decades as self-proclaimed "Bible communists" before incorporating into the biggest supplier of dinnerware to the American food-service industry, not to mention harboring their most infamous resident, an irritating young maniac who, years after he moved away, was hanged for assassinating President Garfield.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation



“Technically, it's a family restaurant, but it will only remind you of your family if your mom chain-smoked menthols.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“There are people who look forward to spending their sunset years in the sunshine; it is my own retirement dream to await my death indoors, dragging strangers up dusty staircases while coughing up one of the most thrilling phrases in the English language: "It was on this spot..." My fantasy is to one day become a docent.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“To me, every plaque, no matter what words are inscribed on it, says the same magic informative thing: Something happened! The gum cost a dollar, but the story was free.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“Honestly, the only question most Americans ask about a new building at this point is basically: Is it a soul-sucking eyesore of cheap-ass despair? It's not? Whew.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“I like that the Mall serves as our national Tuppaware, reliable and empty, waiting to be filled with potluck whatever.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation



“While technically Maryland remained in the Union during the Civil War, it was the border state, a schizophrenic no-man’s-land with the North at its door and the South in its heart.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“...it’s worth pointing out that [Herman Melville] worked in [the New York Custom House] as a deputy customs inspector between 1866 and 1885. Nineteen years, and he never got a raise - four dollars a day, six days a week. He was by then a washed-up writer, forgotten and poor. I used to find this subject heartbreaking, a waste: the greatest living American author was forced to spend his days writing tariff reports instead of novels. But now, knowing what I know about the sleaze of the New York Custom House, and the honorable if bitter decency with which Melville did his job, I have come to regard literature’s loss as the republic’s gain. Great writers are a dime a dozen in New York. But an honest customs inspector in the Gilded Age? Unheard of.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“I suspect that the day a person gives up on the Geneva Convention is the day a person gives up on the human race.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“(The subject of Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows, I realize, is a digression away from the Oneida Community, and yet, I do feel compelled, indeed almost conspiracy theoretically bound to mention that one of the reasons the Oneida Community broke up and turned itself into a corporate teapot factory is that a faction within the group, led by a lawyer named James William Towner, was miffed that the community’s most esteemed elders were bogarting the teenage virgins and left in a huff for none other than Orange County, California, where Towner helped organize the Orange County government, became a judge, and picked the spot where the Santa Ana courthouse would be built, a courthouse where, it is reasonable to assume, Peter Gallagher’s attorney on The O.C. might defend his clients.)”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“Then, as if getting blown up is not enough to worry about, after I take a seat on the steps, I get a look at the choir. Thirty singers and from where I’m sitting, it looks like only two of them are black. It’s not like I’m saying suburban white people shouldn’t sing. Because I love Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation



“The people who visit the [Lincoln] memorial always look like an advertisement for democracy, so bizarrely, suspiciously diverse that one time I actually saw a man in a cowboy hat standing there reading the Gettysburg Address next to a Hasidic Jew”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“Take for example the commencement address he [James Garfield] delivered at his alma mater Hiram College in the summer of 1880. ... The only thing stopping this address from turning into a slacker parable is the absence of the word 'dude'.”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“Abraham Lincoln had a soft spot for deserters, whom he called his “legs cases.” Though many of his military commanders grumbled about Lincoln’s leniency — traditionally, runaways were shot — the president preferred incarceration to execution, asking, “If Almighty God gives a man a cowardly pair of legs how can he help their running away with him?”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


“Still, as a kid, History Repeats Itself terrified me, mostly because I was a God-fearing child. And I mean that literally. God scared me stiff, what with the turning human beings into salt and getting them swallowed up by whales, plus the locusts and famines and, not least, making sure his own kid gets nailed to death onto wood. Every time someone would die — a cousin or grandparent or Elvis — some relative preacher would there-there it away by saying that God has a plan, and we simply have no way of knowing what that plan is. But we did know. We learned about His plan every week at Sunday school. It’s called Armageddon!”
― Sarah Vowell, quote from Assassination Vacation


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About the author

Sarah Vowell
Born place: in Muskogee, OK, The United States
Born date December 27, 1969
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