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NPR 'geek funny girl' visits MIT

Sarah Vowell
Sarah Vowell

National Public Radio writer and storyteller Sarah Vowell, called "radio's geek funny girl" by the San Francisco Chronicle, will present a talk and book signing on Sunday, Feb. 29 at 4 p.m. in Room 10-250.

Vowell has examined everything from her father's homemade life-size cannon to her obsession with the "Godfather" films, the New Hampshire primary and her Cherokee ancestors' forced march on the Trail of Tears.

A contributing editor for NPR's "This American Life" since 1996, Vowell has been a staple of its popular live shows around the country. She is also a regular on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," which she credits for lowering the median age of her audience. "There's a super-cute 19-year-old contingent, and that's more Conan O'Brien than public radio," Vowell said in an interview with The Times Union (Albany, N.Y.).

Newsweek named her its "Rookie of the Year" for nonfiction in 1997 for "Radio On: A Listener's Diary." Her other books are "Take the Cannoli: Stories from the New World" and "The Partly Cloudy Patriot," a national bestseller recently released on audio CD featuring the voices of Norman Lear, Paul Begala and Conan O'Brien. "Assassination Vacation," Vowell's forthcoming book about tourism and presidential murder, is due out in spring 2005.

Vowell, who admits to being a "history geek," originally planned to be an art historian and earned a master's degree in the field from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1996. But even in graduate school, she found her sense of humor took precedence over her studies. "My art history papers were kind of jokey," she told The Times Union. "I was always putting zingers in, making fun of a Myconian cup."

Vowell's books will be available for purchase following the talk.

The event is sponsored by the MIT Office of the Arts' Alan Katzenstein Memorial Fund and the Center for New Words.

While at MIT, Vowell will meet with classes and student groups. For more information, call 253-2341.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 25, 2004.

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