Cover To Cover is the anchor program for GPB’s literary coverage. Cover To Cover features a collection of distinctive Southern voices interviewing Georgia writers, Southern writers, and writers dealing with the South. The GPB Southern Lit Cadre will provide you with a varied, weekly glimpse at fiction, non-fiction, history, poetry, and even the occasional ‘old school’ nod to Flannery O’Connor or William Faulkner.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sarah Vowell's Wordy Shipmates On Cover To Cover Thanksgiving Weekend

Frank Reiss interviews Sarah Vowell about her new book about the Puritans, The Wordy Shipmates. Here are Franks thoughts about Sarah and the interview. The show airs Sunday night at 8pm, the following Thursday night at 11:30pm and is available online for on demand listening at
While the so-called “Republican base” gets a charge out of the feisty Sarah Palin, for the public radio crowd, there’s an equal and opposite excitement generated by another sassy Sarah, “This American Life” contributor Sarah Vowell. Vowell is a public radio star in part because of the incongruity of her little girl voice talking about very serious subjects with a striking intelligence and obvious depth of knowledge. What can go unnoticed in her most famous role is what a uniquely gifted writer she is. Reading her books leaves no doubt about these gifts. They combine an enthusiasm more often associated with the young rock critic she once was with a profundity that can only come from the kind of focused study that usually results in deadening history books people read only when forced to. And there’s also her post-modern wit that makes her a favorite guest of David Letterman and Jon Stewart. All of which add up to some of the most enjoyable books being written by the distinctive generation of writers that include Dave Eggers, Nick Hornby and the rest of the McSweeney’s/Believer set. Vowell’s latest book, The Wordy Shipmates, is also her most ambitious. Its subject is the Puritans who settled the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630 under the leadership of John Winthrop. Winthrop’s most famous sermon included the image of “The City on the Hill” which was so effectively used by President Ronald Reagan. It is this connection that fuels Vowell’s research, examining this image as the origin of American exceptionalism, and the irony of how this sermon on “Christian Charity” came to inspire quite uncharitable political policies. In conversation, Vowell is just as one would hope: funny, self-deprecating, and tending to let conversation go off into unpredictable, though always entertaining, directions.-Frank Reiss