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Take the Cannoli: Stories From the New World Paperback – April 3, 2001


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A good storyteller can engage, provoke and intrigue in a few pages or a matter of moments. A great storyteller can accomplish all that while reflecting on something as mundane as an Italian dessert or a Midwestern bridge. A regular on Public Radio International's This American Life, Vowell (Radio On: A Listener's Diary) proves to be the latter in this quirky collection of thoughts, ramblings and memories that charmingly cohere into a full picture of American life. While she occasionally attempts to tackle larger political and historical issues, her talent lies in making small details bright and engaging. Especially sharp are her explorations of topics that might at first seem tired and overplayed, such as the Godfather movies (from which she draws the book's title), road trips, Disney and Sinatra. She displays her knack for insight during both her journalistic quests, as when she writes histories of New York's Chelsea Hotel and Chicago's Michigan Avenue Bridge, and her personal journeys, as when she describes a courtship conducted by exchanging cassette tapes. The essays, which rarely reference each other, stand on their own as snippets from the mind of a pop culture maven Taken together, however, they form a vivid autobiographical portrait: Vowell's description of growing up a gunsmith's daughter in Oklahoma complements another essay about road tripping with her sister down the Trail of Tears, and makes an ensuing piece on a visit to Disney's planned town, Celebration, even funnier. Vowell's writingAa blend of serious observations and bouncy remarksAmakes for rich commentary on America, and for great stories. Agent, Wendy Weil. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In this eclectic addition to the autobiographical literary genre, Vowell (Radio On: A Listener's Diary) explains her journey from natural-born liberal to understanding the differences between herself and her conservative family. Her father is a gunsmith and partial to the Second Amendment. The best anecdotes in this book have been pilfered from her family, and she graciously acknowledges the debt. Her liberal use of pop culture serves as a touchstone throughout the collection. The most memorable essay, "What I See When I Look at the Face on the $20 Bill," recounts a cross-country trip with her fraternal twin sister. They followed the Trail of Tears searching for their heritage and discovered their own constantly conflicting emotions. Many of these pieces were written for radio and lack depth, but Take the Cannoli is still a satisfying read. Recommended for larger public libraries.
-Pam Kingsbury, Alabama Humanities Fdn., Florence
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 219 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Later Printing edition (April 3, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743205405
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743205405
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sarah Vowell is the author of the bestselling Assassination Vacation, The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Take the Cannoli, and Radio On. She is a contributing editor for public radio's "This American Life." She is also a McSweeney's person and the voice of teenage superhero Violet Parr in Pixar Animation Studios' "The Incredibles."

Customer Reviews

I wanted to like this book ... but found it to be a somewhat boring rant.
LizN
The writing style is very conversational, and reading the book is like talking to a really smart, really funny media-addict/friend.
Nicole Bradshaw
And this set of essays contains some of her best and most interesting work.
Colin Paterson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Kramer Bussel on March 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Sarah Vowell brings her trademark wit and attention to detail to a range of topics in this remarkable collection. She ranges from the everyday (mix tapes and UPS deliveries) to more complex subjects (her Cherokee heritage and Trail of Tears), and provides insights into American culture that are profound. She stakes her claim to be able to criticize American wrongdoings but also to wholeheartedly love her country (in an essay entitled "Vindictively American").
The love of music she evidenced in her previous book Radio On is still here, with her faves like Jonathan Richman sprinkled throughout the book. Her irreverent spirit is best displayed in the title chapter, where she appropriates the phrase "Take The Cannoli" from the film The Godfather and truly makes it her own.
Vowell goes to Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp, goes deep into the heart of the Chelsea Hotel, and gets glammed up as a goth girl, all in the name of journalism. She truly shines in this collection as a young person who has not given up on America or on rock n' roll, but who right claims her place to critique and evaluate them on her own terms.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Joseph P. Donnelly on April 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
Scanning the car radio while driving one night, I stumbled on a very young-sounding woman describing the tribulations of performing in a high school marching band during a football game: "having to maneuver into cute visual formations, like the trio of stick figures we fashioned when we played the theme from 'My Three Sons'" and then "pounded out a little Latin-flavored number called 'Tico Tico'". I remember laughing out loud, and wishing for more when she was done.
This same voice - wry, ironic, cranky, always engaging, and often very, very funny - can be found sans audio (Vowell herself says her speaking voice is "straight out of the second grade") in this collection of short memoir pieces and essays.
I should point out here that I'm not an unbiased reviewer: I admire many of the same elements of our culture that Vowell does: Elvis, 50's Sinatra, "The Godfather", Mark Twain, "The Great Gatsby", Beat writing, authentic music with an edge. So if Vowelll were in my high school I would have wanted very much to have compared notes when she was not performing "Tico Tico". But regardless of YOUR passions, there's plenty to enjoy in this book from a fresh new voice with a quirky but consistently insightful take on our culture.
Humor is so hard to pull off well in writing - and Vowell has fabulous timing and delivery. I'll look forward to her next book - where perhaps she can more consciously try to tie together memorable snapshots like these into a more unified whole. Even here, however, the book adds up to more than the sume of its component parts.
I liked Vowell's line that "'What is This Thing Called Love' is the driving question behind the entire Sinatra research project.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By edzaf on December 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you taste for humor leans on the sardonic side -- this collection of essays by Sarah Vowell is for you. Vowell often finds herself to be the proverbial "fish out of water" with journeys that take her to many fascinating and diverse places such as Hoboken, NJ (home of Frank Sinatra), Walt Disney World, rock 'n roll "camp," and San Francisco "goth" clubs. You are guaranteed to be smiling or laughing out loud at some point as you read each essay.
But if fun is not all you are looking for, Vowell is also a walking encyclopedia. Vowell gives us a history lesson in two essays in particular. "Michigan and Wacker" is a virtual history of Chicago in 13 pages, while "What I See When I Look at a $20 Bill" is an intriguing take on the Trail of Tears which forced Native Americans out of Georgia to Oklahoma. Embarassingly, I learned more about this ugly chapter in American history than was taught to me in high school.
I recently had a chance to go to a Vowell reading (along with her NPR colleague, David Sedaris -- a wonderful pairing by the way). Vowell's speaking voice is very distinctive and made me enjoy reading this collection even more since I was able to "hear" her as I read. I encourage folks to seek her out on NPR to get the more complete Vowell experience.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Lilley on August 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
...but I will caution readers that they MIGHT find it more enjoyable to hear Consigliere Sarah Vowell read them herself. That's what I discovered. Don't get me wrong, this is a fantastic book start to finish; my favorite This American Life essayist covers a wide and diverse variety of topics, from the Trail of Tears to growing up a gunsmith's daughter to going Goth for a day. Every essay in this book was a delectable morsel of Sarah Vowell's acid, accurate wit. This wonderful piece of insight made me laugh, made me think, and most of all, made me understand why I should leave the gun and take the cannoli. Thank you, Sarah Vowell, for continuing to grace the world of popular culture with your fresh, cutting perspective.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Scott Bresinger on September 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
Though she's known to many as a voice on NPR's "This American Life" and to many more (even if they don't realize it) as the voice of Violet in the hit Pixar film "The Incredibles," I mainly came to know her through her written works. Having read her book "The Partly Cloudy Patriot" and loving the unique way she blends history, pop culture and humor with autobiography, I couldn't resist Sarah Vowell's essay collection "Take the Cannoli." To put it mildly, I was impressed. Even though many of these pieces were delivered on the radio, they translate to book form without a hint of strain. Whereas a book written by a comedian like George Carlin often comes off as a clumsily assembled blog, Ms. Vowell takes the time to put her thoughts down with clarity, and therefore her ideas and personality shine through.

Of course, that's what one should expect of any writer, much less an essayist whose main beat is her own life. So what makes this book hold up next to the likes of David Sedaris and Dave Eggers (both of whom are thanked in the acknowledgments)? For one thing, Ms. Vowell has a firm grasp of American history, both the good and bad, that most contemporary memoirists tend to ignore. In particular is "What I see when I look at the face on the $20 bill," in which she examines the Cherokee side of her family by taking a car trip along the Trail of Tears with her twin sister and tries to reconcile that shameful episode in American history with the country she loves today--this book is also useful ammunition against conservative blowhards who claim that liberals "hate America". Her conclusiions are both inspiring and heartbreaking, not to mention worth the price of admission all by itself. Ms.
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