The Partly Cloudy Patriot
© 2003 Sarah Vowell
The Partly Cloudy Patriot sees cheeky Yank Sarah Vowell muse on history, politics, and American life in general through a series of essays written in 2001. Her familar mixture of absurd and melachoic humor is well on display; she’s especially put out by the triumph of George W. Bush. Seperate essays hail the virtues of Clinton and Gore, the latter of whom she lionizes as a fellow nerd who should have run on his pocket-protector-abiding principles. Every essay is a mixed bag; that piece on Clinton features her visiting the presidential shrines of Eisenhower, Nixon, LBJ, and Kennedy to study how each man’s term in office was dealt with and presented for posterity, where she leaves with a grudging respect for Nixon and LBJ despite their deficiencies in office. The meaning of American identity comes up a time or two; Vowell admits to being more American than she would like to believe, embracing cowboy individualism even against the ideals of conforming, polite Canada which she otherwise admires. A more common subject is that of history, Vowell’s reliable companion, filling her world with stories and creating meaning. She takes her title from Thomas Paine’s urging that the revolution is no time for seasonal soldiers and sunshine patriots; she is, for all her misgivings about George Bush, the south, and heroes who don’t live up to their hype, a devout American.