Adult Book Discussion "The Wordy Shipmates" by Sarah Vowell
An inside look at ‘Mayflower Mayhem’ could describe “The Wordy Shipmates,” a novel by author and radio personality Sarah Vowell, that will be the focus of the adult book discussion on Tuesday, February 21, 7:00 p.m. at the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, 201 N. Mulberry Street.
The New York Post described “The Wordy Shipmates,” as “a meditation on the Puritans who colonized Massachusetts, Vowell lays out her familiar template – serious research delivered with irreverence.”
The novel opens with a sermon delivered in 1630 by Reverend John Cotton in Southampton, England, where 700 people are gathered to set sail for New England aboard the Arabella. Among this throng is John Winthrop, whose writings will shortly become the centerpiece of the book. Vowell writes of Cotton that “here is the smartest man in England,” adding, “Getting him to bless the send-off would be like scoring Nelson Mandela to deliver the commencement address at the neighbor kid’s eight grade graduation.”
Vowell’s chief interest is the ideology of the puritans, and to that end she pored over Winthrop’s sermons, journals and letters to gain an understanding of the settlers first years in Massachusetts.
Vowell also explores the creation of Harvard, “so their future clergymen could receive proper theological training.” Early on it becomes apparent that the centerpiece of the book is John Winthrop’s sermon, “A Model of Christian Charity,” supposedly delivered on the Arabella mid-voyage. Of particular interest to Vowell is the line that Massachusetts should be “as a city upon a hill.”
The rest of “The Wordy Shipmates” is an often entertaining, windy discourse with frequent tangents into pop culture, macabre judicial punishments and first person reportage. As with her previous effort at amateur history, “Assassination Vacation,” the main character turns out not to be Winthrop – or Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island or Anne Hutchinson – but Vowell herself.
The program is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. A copy of the book donated by the Friends of the Library will be given away as a door prize.