Sarah Vowell

All the time we spend on sex and entertainment, the 17th-century settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony spent writing, and Sarah Vowell has drawn heavily on their incorrigible sermonizing, journaling, correspondence, and litigation for The Wordy Shipmates (Riverhead, $29.95), her revisionist history of a society too easily dismissed as a flock of dour, grey-clad killjoys. They were that, of course, but much more: Meet clergyman/civic leader John Winthrop, who with his catchy phrase “a city on a hill” (borrowed from the Sermon on the Mount) fueled an American exceptionalism that shows no sign of sputtering out; Roger Williams, a defender of religious pluralism who was also a dogmatic pain in the ass; and the disputatious Anne Hutchinson, whose ballbusting drive to teach and preach made her the Hillary Clinton/Camille Paglia of her day. Vowell’s research here is based more on reading than on traveling, which makes Shipmates a bit less light and airy than her previous popular history Assassination Vacation (her examination of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley memorabilia), though her deadpan wit and hip-to-be-square embrace of unabashedly nerdy Americana remain in place. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 652-4255, www.townhallseattle.org. $5. 7:30 p.m. GAVIN BORCHERT

Mon., Oct. 13, 7:30 p.m., 2008

 
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