And Sometimes Why

I love Sarah Vowell. She’s so full of love and misanthropy all at the same time. Just like me — I love humanity in the abstract. It’s the next door neighbor I can’t stand. I’m rereading The Partly Cloudy Patriot. (I love rereading. I’ve been rereading my whole life. I don’t understand people who don’t like to reread. I don’t trust them.) She writes: “I’m a sucker for Puritan New England and the Civil War. Because those two subjects feature the central tension of American life, the conflict between freedom and community, between individual will and the public good. That is a fancy way of hinting that sometimes other people get on my nerves. I’m two parts loner and one part joiner, so I feel at home delving into the epic struggles for togetherness.” This cracks me up. I’m also fascinated learning about how human beings manage to live together, all the machinations it takes, the written and unwritten rules, the endless arguments over individual rights and the common good. Just please don’t make me next to anyone on a plane. That arm rest is mine, damn it.

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