Take the Cannoli (Stories from the New World) | Summer Reading | Indy Week

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Take the Cannoli (Stories from the New World)

by Sarah Vowell, (Simon & Schuster, 219 pp., $12)

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Here's the main thing you need to know before you park yourself in a beach chair with this book and an ice-cold Coke: The fizz coming out your nose may be painful.

Vowell's irreverent, wise and wise-cracking review of modern America (recently released in paperback)--from Disney's faux frontiers, to the ironies of the Trail of Tears--is an entertaining ride for all 219 pages. Vowell, a commentator on Public Radio International's This American Life, converted many of her radio topics from broadcast to print for this collection, an autobiographical variety show.

Thirtysomething lefties who grew up in Reagan households will particularly enjoy the opening essay, "Shooting Dad," in which Vowell--whose first political act was joining a rabid anti-nuke club in high school--comes to terms with her gun-collecting, NRA-card-carrying father. But don't let her youth fool you. The chapter on her stay in New York City's Chelsea Hotel, with a historical commentary on its '60s rock 'n' roll residents, could have been written by one of her Beatnik-generation heroes.

A native Oklahoman who came of age in Montana, Vowell now writes from Chicago, where PRI's Ira Glass taught her to drive at the age of 28--the occasion for another hilarious essay. She dribbles a keen understanding of the urban way of life throughout her work. Yet, with equal clarity, she chronicles her cross-country odyssey tracing her Native American ancestors' trek westward through rural backwaters. If you liked Susan Orlean's The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup or Durhamite Haven Kimmel's A Girl Named Zippy--or if you're just looking for some sharp, amusing writing--pack Vowell's book. Since it's a collection of loosely related essays, the charm of Take the Cannoli doesn't fade if you pick it up and put it down between excursions. Just watch the Coke.

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