She was born on Story Street, and her name is Sarah Vowell, so somebody up there had a plan that she was going to turn out to be a writer. Lucky thing, too.
The New York-based storyteller and contributing editor to Public Radio International's This American Life has gathered her witty tales into a collection that smashes all our stereotypes about Americans who think Abraham Lincoln rocks.
What makes Vowell so fascinating is that she's both completely contemporary in her references and totally hot for history. In God Will Give You Blood To Drink In A Souvenir Shot Glass, she talks about one of her favourite vacation pastimes -- taking walking tours of historical spots. On a hilarious trip to Salem, Massachusetts, home of the witch trials, she's appalled by how the site of such a tragedy could become the small-town equivalent of a theme park.
Another, called Rosa Parks C'est Moi, goes after those who trivialize Parks's courage by blithely comparing their personal plights to hers, like the street mime refused a permit who says it's just like being sent to the back of the bus. Vowell doesn't buy it.
Her piece evaluating presidential libraries, written as an open letter advising Bill Clinton on how he should conceive his, is full of surprises. Guess who she says has been the most open about his tenure in office? Fooled ya: Lyndon Johnson.
She goes about all of this while referencing everybody from Kurt Cobain to Meg Ryan to Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry.
That's the thing about Vowell. She loves to be intellectually disarming.
Oh, yeah, and she's funny, too.
THE PARTLY CLOUDY PATRIOT by Sarah Vowell (Simon & Schuster/Distican), 196 pages, $35 cloth. Rating: NNNN