Sarah, an author who knows how to title her books (Assassination Vacation, Take the Cannoli, The Partly Cloudy Patriot), was a terrific speaker/reader, her deadpan timing and delivery impeccable, right up there with the best stand-up comedians. The Wordy Shipmates is Sarah’s investigation into our nation’s heritage, specifically, an exploration of the Puritans, the people we consider our philosophical, spiritual, and moral ancestors. Her rigorous research (she read a ton of sermons) challenges our perceptions and reveals these colonists as hardly ignorant, but rather highly literate, principled, and surprisingly feisty. It’s a great read, bringing to life some of those fascinating characters – John Winthrop, John Cotton, Anne Hutchinson – whom we all once studied, but perhaps have long since forgotten. She is particularly adept at drawing parallels with modern day history and noting how the concept of American exceptionalism has its roots in the Calvinist tradition, followers of which felt they were a “chosen people”.
She spoke humorously of some historical character (can’t recall his name) involved in expeditions and (like herself) simply not a hearty person; he loathed every physical aspect of his expeditions, but how he savored keeping a diary - apparently, to hilarious effect. So excited was he when some outsiders came to his encampment to deliver salt (the food had been ‘til then horribly bland) that he stayed behind while his fellow explorers spent the day out and about, discovering a little body of water later known as Lake Tahoe.
When asked what she liked about our own “Sunshine” state, Sarah didn’t mention our weather (“I like snow”), but said she’s fond of our trees, particularly the Redwood, certain of our writers (Chandler), has an affinity for the domestic architecture of 1900-1930’s L.A. (Julia Morgan, certain buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright, the craftsman style of the Green Brothers) and likes the McSweeney’s people. What she didn’t like was the fact she has to pay CA state taxes, yet is forbidden to vote! When asked what question she’d herself would most liked to be asked, she sighed, “Do you want to take a nap?!”
She mentioned she just finished reading Rodney Rothman’s memoir “Early Bird” about a 28 year old laid off Hollywood writer who retires early, taking up residence in a retirement community. She found it very funny, at times poignant.