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Take the Cannoli: Stories from the New World Paperback – 30 Jan 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (30 Jan 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141006579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141006574
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,850,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Lawrence Weschler Sarah Vowell's uncanny voice -- by turns wise and wise-ass, wry and celebratory, heartrending and hilarious -- translates seamlessly to the page: equal parts Betty Boop and Dorothy Parker, Mark Twain and Walt Whitman, Woody Guthrie and Arlo Guthrie. She pegs herself as "a typical American mutt." American she undoubtedly (unabashedly!) is, but typical? Hardly. This American Mutt is easily the year's Best in Show. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Sarah Vowell grew up the daughter of a gunsmith in Montana, and now lives in New York City where she writes and presents a highly acclaimed Saturday morning radio show. She is in her thirties.

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IF YOU WERE PASSING BY THE HOUSE WHERE I GREW UP DURING MY TEENAGE years and it happened to be before Election Day, you wouldn't have needed to come inside to see that it was a house divided. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 April 2003
Format: Paperback
Like many other readers of this book, I found that Vowell's essays work much better on NPR than they do on the page. Part of that may be ascribed to the overall mood that's created when you hear her voice tell the story, along with the perfect background and bridging music. Her timing and pace is just so much better on radio than in writing—a lot of those caustic or telling one-liners just lie dead on the page. Finally, when I hear her radio pieces it's usually a totally welcome surprise and treat while I'm stuck in the car, whereas when actually sitting down to read her book, I couldn't help thinking of unread books on my shelf crying for attention. What I mean is that Vowell's take on American life is most welcome and effective when it's unexpected.
The sixteen essays aren't particularly bad (except the one on Frank Sinatra, which is the one case where Vowell takes a conceit—Sinatra as the original punk—and attempts to ram it home despite the obvious contradictions), but very few of them are truly engaging in the way her radio work is. The best two, are not surprisingly, two of the most personal: "Shooting Dad", in which she elegantly displays her relationship with her gun-loving father, and "What I See When I Look On the Face on the $20 Bill", in which she and her sister embark on a "Trail of Tears" road trip to try and get in touch with their part-Cherokee heritage. On the other end of the spectrum are her set pieces on the famous Chelsea Hotel, learning to drive, hanging out with goths, Disney World, a cheezy Rock 'n Roll fantasy camp, none of which are particularly insightful, funny, or distinctive.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 31 Dec 2000
Format: Paperback
n the part of the world where I live, good English books are rare. Having something as " "alternative" " as this stacked in the bookshops... yeah, right. I first saw Sarah Vowell on the David Letterman Show. The thing that made me want to buy this book was the title. Yes, I am obssessed with the Godfather too.
As I read on, I found it had as much to do with the Godfather as sliced bread did. Having said this, you would probably have thought that I might have chucked the book. But no, I couldn't put it down.
I guess the best words to describe this book would be "nakedly autobiographical". As I read on, I found myself identifying with Vowell's voice, even though I was brought up in land where America was portrayed as the pathetic setting for the Rosanne comedy skits on TV.
Essays like "Music Lessons" have more to do with Ms. Vowell's analysis of accidental life lessons she gained from her band-geek days, like how the Darwinian implications of high school cliques carries over to the real world, than actual MUSIC LESSONS.
"Orchestra kids wear tuxedos. Band kids wear tuxedo T-shirts. The one thing the band kids and the orchestra kids had in common was a unified disgust for the chorus kids who were, to us, merely drama geeks with access to four-part harmony."
I don't think there's a book out there that even slightly resembles this one. If there was, they probably nicked the ideas off Sarah Vowell.
Read it. You WON'T be sorry. I can vouch for that.
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By A Customer on 15 Jun 2002
Format: Paperback
i loved this book and finished it in two sittings. the author's wonderfully witty observations are fantastic, with the anicdotal nature of her writing making the reader feel relaxed; as a result you actually want to hear what she has to say, even though it may not apply to all.
from her obbsession with 'the godfather' to a frank sinatra pilgrimage, this book spans the whole of north america and is a must for any u.s.a fan. a thoroughly enjoyable yarn!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 106 reviews
67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
Witty, Irreverent, Entertaining and Insightful 25 Mar 2000
By Rachel Kramer Bussel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Sarah Vowell brings her trademark wit and attention to detail to a range of topics in this remarkable collection. She ranges from the everyday (mix tapes and UPS deliveries) to more complex subjects (her Cherokee heritage and Trail of Tears), and provides insights into American culture that are profound. She stakes her claim to be able to criticize American wrongdoings but also to wholeheartedly love her country (in an essay entitled "Vindictively American").
The love of music she evidenced in her previous book Radio On is still here, with her faves like Jonathan Richman sprinkled throughout the book. Her irreverent spirit is best displayed in the title chapter, where she appropriates the phrase "Take The Cannoli" from the film The Godfather and truly makes it her own.
Vowell goes to Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp, goes deep into the heart of the Chelsea Hotel, and gets glammed up as a goth girl, all in the name of journalism. She truly shines in this collection as a young person who has not given up on America or on rock n' roll, but who right claims her place to critique and evaluate them on her own terms.
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
A Long Way from "Tico Tico" 30 April 2000
By Joseph P. Donnelly - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Scanning the car radio while driving one night, I stumbled on a very young-sounding woman describing the tribulations of performing in a high school marching band during a football game: "having to maneuver into cute visual formations, like the trio of stick figures we fashioned when we played the theme from 'My Three Sons'" and then "pounded out a little Latin-flavored number called 'Tico Tico'". I remember laughing out loud, and wishing for more when she was done.
This same voice - wry, ironic, cranky, always engaging, and often very, very funny - can be found sans audio (Vowell herself says her speaking voice is "straight out of the second grade") in this collection of short memoir pieces and essays.
I should point out here that I'm not an unbiased reviewer: I admire many of the same elements of our culture that Vowell does: Elvis, 50's Sinatra, "The Godfather", Mark Twain, "The Great Gatsby", Beat writing, authentic music with an edge. So if Vowelll were in my high school I would have wanted very much to have compared notes when she was not performing "Tico Tico". But regardless of YOUR passions, there's plenty to enjoy in this book from a fresh new voice with a quirky but consistently insightful take on our culture.
Humor is so hard to pull off well in writing - and Vowell has fabulous timing and delivery. I'll look forward to her next book - where perhaps she can more consciously try to tie together memorable snapshots like these into a more unified whole. Even here, however, the book adds up to more than the sume of its component parts.
I liked Vowell's line that "'What is This Thing Called Love' is the driving question behind the entire Sinatra research project." Possibly her subsequent work could elaborate more overtly on her take of "What is This Thing Called Life?". In the meantime - this is a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable book, full of fresh and interesting takes on our culture from a rapidly maturing artist. I strongly recommend it.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Sardonic and Educational 8 Dec 2000
By edzaf - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
If you taste for humor leans on the sardonic side -- this collection of essays by Sarah Vowell is for you. Vowell often finds herself to be the proverbial "fish out of water" with journeys that take her to many fascinating and diverse places such as Hoboken, NJ (home of Frank Sinatra), Walt Disney World, rock 'n roll "camp," and San Francisco "goth" clubs. You are guaranteed to be smiling or laughing out loud at some point as you read each essay.
But if fun is not all you are looking for, Vowell is also a walking encyclopedia. Vowell gives us a history lesson in two essays in particular. "Michigan and Wacker" is a virtual history of Chicago in 13 pages, while "What I See When I Look at a $20 Bill" is an intriguing take on the Trail of Tears which forced Native Americans out of Georgia to Oklahoma. Embarassingly, I learned more about this ugly chapter in American history than was taught to me in high school.
I recently had a chance to go to a Vowell reading (along with her NPR colleague, David Sedaris -- a wonderful pairing by the way). Vowell's speaking voice is very distinctive and made me enjoy reading this collection even more since I was able to "hear" her as I read. I encourage folks to seek her out on NPR to get the more complete Vowell experience.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
I LOVED THIS BOOK... 27 Aug 2000
By Geoff Lilley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
...but I will caution readers that they MIGHT find it more enjoyable to hear Consigliere Sarah Vowell read them herself. That's what I discovered. Don't get me wrong, this is a fantastic book start to finish; my favorite This American Life essayist covers a wide and diverse variety of topics, from the Trail of Tears to growing up a gunsmith's daughter to going Goth for a day. Every essay in this book was a delectable morsel of Sarah Vowell's acid, accurate wit. This wonderful piece of insight made me laugh, made me think, and most of all, made me understand why I should leave the gun and take the cannoli. Thank you, Sarah Vowell, for continuing to grace the world of popular culture with your fresh, cutting perspective.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
The political is personal... 21 Sep 2005
By Scott Bresinger - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Though she's known to many as a voice on NPR's "This American Life" and to many more (even if they don't realize it) as the voice of Violet in the hit Pixar film "The Incredibles," I mainly came to know her through her written works. Having read her book "The Partly Cloudy Patriot" and loving the unique way she blends history, pop culture and humor with autobiography, I couldn't resist Sarah Vowell's essay collection "Take the Cannoli." To put it mildly, I was impressed. Even though many of these pieces were delivered on the radio, they translate to book form without a hint of strain. Whereas a book written by a comedian like George Carlin often comes off as a clumsily assembled blog, Ms. Vowell takes the time to put her thoughts down with clarity, and therefore her ideas and personality shine through.

Of course, that's what one should expect of any writer, much less an essayist whose main beat is her own life. So what makes this book hold up next to the likes of David Sedaris and Dave Eggers (both of whom are thanked in the acknowledgments)? For one thing, Ms. Vowell has a firm grasp of American history, both the good and bad, that most contemporary memoirists tend to ignore. In particular is "What I see when I look at the face on the $20 bill," in which she examines the Cherokee side of her family by taking a car trip along the Trail of Tears with her twin sister and tries to reconcile that shameful episode in American history with the country she loves today--this book is also useful ammunition against conservative blowhards who claim that liberals "hate America". Her conclusiions are both inspiring and heartbreaking, not to mention worth the price of admission all by itself. Ms. Vowell looks at the worst America has to offer--violence, racism, religious extremism--and balances it against the freedom, independence and opportunity it provides, and still proudly waves the constitution (that's right, the constitution--any idiot can display a mere symbol like the flag, but the U.S. constitution is about ideas, perhaps the most revolutionary and resonant ideas in the modern world, even if they're not in color).

The current vogue for memoirs can sometimes come off as a gimmick--did you have a screwed-up childhood and a weird family? Great! You too can be a bestselling author! Sarah Vowell proves that a relatively "normal" upbringing and an adult life spent with other people's stories--her takes on "The Godfather" (from where this book gets its title) and Frank Sinatra are mini-classics--can result in something beautiful and original. Call it "post-modern" if you like (or don't--that term went from cliche to plain silly a long time ago) but I'll just call it "brilliant."
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