2016: 19. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States

"How did the Marquis de Lafayette win over the stingiest, crankiest tax protesters in the history of the world?"

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, Sarah Vowell

The newest Sarah Vowell is about my man the Marquis de Lafayette ("Oui oui, mon ami, je m’appelle Lafayette!/The Lancelot of the revolutionary set!/I came from afar just to say “Bonsoir!”/Tell the King “Casse toi!” Who’s the best?/C’est moi!”).  And it’s classic Vowell, and extended essay on the man, and the Revolution, written in her typical voice - funny and modern, but serious about America, too.  I ordinarily adore her books, and if you do, too, you will probably love this one. You’ll learn about the Revolution and also about how America has always been fractured and weird and crazy.  I normally would have loved this book - and I did enjoy reading it.  But…

I am so wrapped up in Hamilton (book and musical lately) that I kept saying well, what about this? and this? and when she’d say something like explaning who John Laurens was, I’d be all, duh, we all know about John Laurens the manumission abolitionist.  And since this was typical Vowell, it’s more a think piece than a biography, and I found myself wanting to know much, much more about the Marquis.  So, not really Vowells’ fault that her book came out at a time when I was craving in depth Revolutionary knowlege, rather than a ruminative pop culture think piece.  I think a non-Hamilton nut would really enjoy it. But I think I will have to go get a real Lafayette biography.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017