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TAKE THE CANNOLI by Sarah Vowell


Stories from the New World

by Sarah Vowell

Pub Date: April 6th, 2000
ISBN: 0-684-86797-4
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Broadcaster and columnist Vowell (Radio On: A Listener's Diary, 1998) presents a wonderfully eclectic mix of smart-witted,

often hilarious personal essays.

For every reference Vowell makes to The Great Gatsby, Huck Finn, or the Book of Revelations (three of her favorites), she

quotes a combination of Sinatra, Elvis, Springsteen, and Johnny Cash a dozen times, resulting in refreshing writing with attitude.

Throughout, Vowell's passion for music, sound, and rhythm are manifested in her words and her topics, whether firing a cannon

with dad or making a mix tape for a friend's girlfriend. Many of the stylish essays are "on assignment" accounts, in which

Vowell allows herself to be dressed up for a night of goth clubbing, attends Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp, checks into the grimy

and ghostly Chelsea Hotel, and tries to learn to drive at 28. Her title track, "Take the Cannoli," is not about music, but takes

its namesake from a sound byte in The Godfather—a film Vowell obsessed over when in college. The film's "made-up, sexist

East Coast thugs" taught Vowell a valuable lesson about family, guns, and dessert. But not everything is sugar-coated in Vowell's

world: she claims that "even as a six-year-old I knew I'd never be good enough to get into heaven," and she recounts whining

her way through Disney World in "Species-on-Species Abuse." She gets cranky and sardonic, but at these moments her talent

may shine brightest. In "Dark Circles," Vowell, coffee in hand, comes to grips with her insomnia: lying awake in bed, she recalls

her day, arriving at the less-than-soporific conclusion that "everyday, no matter how cheerful, how innocuous, always contains

within it some little speed bump of anger or hate, some wrong place, wrong time, hell-is-other-people moment of despair. Nighty


Vowell's crafty writing, often free-spirited and sometimes neurotic, is like literary stand-up comedy with a lot of heart and

perfect delivery.