Skip to main content
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.
News & Updates

Keep up to date with our recent project launches, award recognitions, industry insights, and behind-the-scenes peeks.

News and Updates

Caitlyn’s Pick: Assassination Vacation

Samuel Ashe

July 29, 2016

Book Title: Assassination Vacation

Author: Sarah Vowell

Narrated By: Sarah Vowell

With Voices From: Conan O’Brien, Eric Bogosian, Stephen King, Dave Eggers, Catherine Keener, Jon Stewart, Tony Kushner, Brad Bird, Daniel Handler, Greg Giraldo, David Rakoff

This is the synopsis From

“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 19th-century biblical sex cult.”

My synopsis is shorter:

Assassination Vacation is book for the obsessed by the obsessed. Sarah Vowell discusses her pilgrimage- her word- around the country in pursuit of historical sites and objects tied to the assassinations and assassinators of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley.

Why did you choose this audio book?

I’m that annoying person who you go to a museum with who has to read everything. You’re three rooms ahead of me and trying to figure out what direction the exit is and I’m sitting in front of an old silver urn trying to commit to memory who made the urn and why, and other useful information that I always use in my day to day life.  I’m not as bad as I used to be, and can skim small plaques and even ignore some if I’m feeling really crazy that day, but if there’s information and history in front of me, I want to know about it.

I have also had the privilege in my life to go to a lot of museums and historical sites, and I have a similar attitude towards them as Vowell. I might not be as obsessed as the author, but I understand experiencing the feeling of the sacred when in the presence of artifacts or being in the actual physical location that history has happened. It’s a connection to the past through something real. I close my eyes and imagine that I am there.

I will say, I did start reading this book a few months ago and stopped after about 20 pages; relics tend to bother me, and obviously this is a book that deals with them. I went to a Catholic high school and one religion class they passed around a little shadowbox filled with bone fragments from saints (or “bone fragments from saints, we promise these are definitely not fake” as I thought of them) and pieces of burial cloths and I was not a fan. I passed it to the next person very quickly. It’s a way to be close to history and the sacred, I guess, but it was not my preferred method. Still isn’t. Also I don’t think I realized that day was going to be “hand around pieces of dead people” in my junior religion class, so it was a bit of shock. I’m just now realizing how weird it was that my religion teach thought that was really going to be a useful experience for a bunch of sixteen year olds…

Anyways, I’m glad I decided to listen to the book, as it has given me a different perspective on relics. While I still find them a little disrespectful to the dead, I understand the need and meaning behind them more. If I feel the obsession and connection with some random urn at a museum, it makes sense that some people put more meaning on things that are more solidly connected to the past humans who did things in history.

What main themes does the author explore?

It’s a book that makes the myth real; these stories about assassins that have become such big stories (like Lincoln’s) or such small stories (I’m sure Garfield’s was basically a footnote in my high school history class) and makes them just stories. Lincoln wasn’t a god; several people worked on his autopsy and we hear about it in detail.

Garfield wasn’t no one; listening to Sarah Vowell talk about how Garfield was so inconvenienced by being the president, would so much rather be reading a book than governing— it was endearing to hear. He had a special reading chair. He was on his way to vacation when he was shot.

The assassins are also people, set firmly in a context and with their own reasons for their actions. Not, like, great reasons, but reasons. There was Booth, expecting a hero’s welcome after his crime and confused that people weren’t more excited that he’d killed Lincoln super dramatically and yelled some Latin words; Giteau, apparently so unhinged and so insufferable that he couldn’t get laid in the utopian free-love cult he was part of for five years and then getting super angry when Garfield didn’t just give him a political office; and Czolgosz, a sad man who wanted in with the cool anarchists and got ignored so decided killing McKinley was the best course of action.  Look, we’ve all been there.

What did you learn?

Details. The book goes into a depth that you can only really get from listening to people who truly care and have a passion for the subject matter.

How has the book changed or broadened your perspective?

It made me consider the lasting political ramifications of the Civil War differently, in how it effected politics in Washington in a way that didn’t really stop until the Spanish American War. And that the Civil War itself was, as Vowell states, an inevitability from the moment there was a compromise over slavery during the Revolutionary War, that that compromise ended up in “the back of Lincoln’s head.”

It’s also a book that in each detail reminds the reader that these people were real, that they lived real lives that mattered individual of the footnote their actions and deaths made in history. It’s easy to forget. It’s important to try to remember.


Haven’t Gotten Around To Assassination Vacation Yet? Get It Here!

Lisha Yakub And ReKon Productions Attach To “The Jessica Cabin”
ReKon Productions Produces The Independent Feature Film “A Moment For Love”
ReKon Rentals Adds New Gear
Bolivar Feature Explores Grief At Its Premiere In Hollywood
“A Leading Man” Now Streaming On JoySauce
Saban Films Takes North America On ‘The Hyperions,’ Starring Cary Elwes
ReKon COO Lesley Lopez Talks About Passion And Purpose
THE HYPERIONS Partners With Archstone Entertainment For Worldwide Sales
Spice Up The Fall With Heidi Kim
Chasing Grace: A First Time Experience
Dive Into Summer With Connie Zitle
Dive Into Summer With Tre’Shonda Sheffey
Dive Into Summer With Rory Macrae
Skipping Into Spring
International Women’s Day
A Night Of Surfing, Short Films & Firsts
ReKon’s Film Festival Circuit
Seeing Shadows With Ben Farber
New ReKoner Alert!
Her Inspiration, She Is | Resource List
ReKon Reports 02.08.18
Seeing Shadows With Garrett McKenna
ReKon Reports 01.17.18
The ReKon Way
On Inspiration And Directing And Everything In-Between
Blue’s Pick: Born A Crime
ReKon Reports 08.10.17
Schrad’s Pick: The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*Ck Review
Auxiliary Route
Summer Audible Book Club 2017
Catch A Wave With Devin Foster
Sammy’s Pick: I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons
Catch A Wave With Stephanie
Catch A Wave With Hannah Pajo-Bickley
ReKon Reports 06.23.17
ReKon Reports 05.03.17
Tilt At Tribeca Film Festival
A Week Of Spring Break Mixes
ReKon Reports 03.23.17
On Set With A First Time PA
ReKon Reports 02.28.17
Spring Blooms With Fiona!
Spring Blooms With Nazia!
ReKon Reports 01.24.17
The Mothers Casting Announcement
The Win – Pilot & Behind The Scenes
ReKon Reports 12.07.16
ReKon Holiday Musts
Field Notes: GAFFER
First Annual Kan Drive
ReKon Reports 11.03.16
ReKon Reports 10.21.16
ReKon Points 001 – Pre Production
Meet Fall Leaf: Grace Neely
Meet Fall Leaf: Hailey Weyer
ReKon Reports 10.05.16
Challenge Accepted: 20 Hours And 50 Minutes With American Gods
Caitlin’s Pick: The Girl With All The Gifts
Sammy’s 2nd Pick: The Alchemist
Kristina’s Pick: “Yes, Please”
Introducing Summer Intern: Scott Sullivan
Introducing Summer Intern: Matt Waxman
Caitlyn’s Pick: Assassination Vacation
Summer Audible Book Club
On Facts Of Common Knowledge And Obscure Nature
ReKon’s Summer Audible Book Club: Sammy’s Pick
Dating Daisy Goes To Dances With Films!
ReKon Productions Turns 7!
ReKon Opening – Open House Candid Photos
Oscar Picks – How Did We Do?
A Week Of Spring Break Mixes
“Dating Daisy” – Audience Choice Winner At Sedona Film Festival
Full Of Grace Hits The Shelves!
30 For 30 Or Die – Farewell To The Stage
Drop The Beat…I Mean The Music Video
Summer ’15 Music Videos
“Duckface” Music Video Dropped Last Week
“Full Of Grace” Acquired By Cinedigm
It’s All Fun And Games Until The Lama Gets Abducted
“Dating Daisy” Trailer Drops
Things Peter Cetera Hates
Susie Sunshine
Meet Summer Sparkler: Tetteh Canacoo
The Thing(S) In The Apartment
A Miley Cyrus Request
Meet Summer Sparkler: Brooke Frickle
Meet Summer Sparkler: Tori Adams
New Projects Added
A Week Of Spring Break Mixes
Our Last Night “A World Divided” Music Video
Game Night Event On 3/7
Welcome Spring Intern: Valerie Wittman
Welcome Spring Intern: Dante Vittone
For Sale: All Production Needs
Introducing Spring Intern: Sharon Wong
Darwin’s Theory As Applied To The Set Of Egan Hall
Year In Review: By The Numbers
Year In Review: Our Year In Numbers
Good Game “Alien Isolation” On Kotaku