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The New YorkerSarah Vowell, a contributing editor to "This American Life," on National Public Radio, knows that she's not a fair-weather patriot -- at least not the kind Thomas Paine disparaged in the first installment of the "American Crisis" papers, which was written in the fall of 1776, when Washington's troops were retreating. But she can't get behind the idea of citizenship as sing-along that has been prevalent since September 11th. The Partly Cloudy Patriot (Simon & Schuster), her latest book, is a collection of radio segments and magazine pieces. Vowell, a charismatic misanthrope, repeats the mantra "We the people, we the people" to keep from freaking out on the humid, overstuffed subway. She also thinks about the Civil War "all the time, every day," vacations in Salem, and takes walking tours of Thomas Jefferson's Paris years. Fashioning herself as Clinton's "crabby little cheerleader," she admits a guilty pleasure in voting. Of the booth: "I love it in there. I drag it out, leisurely punching the names I want as if sipping whiskey in front of a fire."
Office workers with razor-sharp cheekbones, rep ties, and banker pens in David Rees's comic-strip collection Get Your War On (forthcoming from Soft Skull Press) start their frame-to-frame phone conversations with lines like, "Hey buddy. How are you enduring your freedom?" First posted last October at www.mnftiu.cc, this strip finds exclamation-happy biz-school Everypeople swearing and boozing their way through the chaotic national events of the past year, with reactions ranging from calm ("I'm a little confused. Are U.S. citizens allowed to kill suspected terrorists now?") to excitable ("I want all my Americans who think this is our finest hour to just throw your hands in the air!").( Dana Goodyear)