Note: The reviewed text was an advance reader copy acquired through netgalley.com
Why yes, I am reviewing another Dan Savage book. If I haven’t inspired you to read his earlier books The Kid or The Commitment, then I’m going to take another crack at it with his latest collection, American Savage which comes out on May 28, 2013.
The book is a collection of essays about exactly what it says on the cover: faith, sex, love, and politics. For individuals familiar with Dan Savage’s weekly advice column Savage Love or his weekly podcast, many of the topics will sound familiar. However, Savage does a good job of putting a new twist on old favorites that make this book more than just a rehashing of old ground.
I wish I could make pieces of this collection required reading for people I went to undergrad with. Not everyone at ShoCo was incredibly sheltered, but a lot of people were. No joke: I once had a 19 year old woman ask me how a condom worked because she had asked her three roommates and none of them could figure it out. Scary, I know. So I helped set her straight, but I wish I had known to turn them on to Dan Savage at that time, to teach them about GGG sex, to discuss the possibility of monogam-ish circumstances, and to really slam a lot of the bullshit advice that’s out there from people who would rather pretend to be classy than be actually useful. Savage covers all of this in this collection with warmth, humor, and a memorable edge. The collection compels you to move forward, and there are many sections that I didn’t want to end.
The problem with any collection of essays is that it’s hard for the entire collection to achieve excellence. With every essay having equal weight in the collection, the whole thing is only as strong as the mix of the worst and the best together. Although I agree almost to the letter with Savage’s politics and opinions, some of the political-themed essays had a stridency that wasn’t my cup of tea. In one essay about having an at-his-home debate with the current chair of the National Organization for Marriage (boo, hiss), he makes the point that his partner Terry was less-than-pleased about the arrangement. Whereas Savage is the sort of person who goes to CPAC for kicks and desperately wants a picture with Rick Santorum, Terry avoids the conflict because in his mind, the argument has been settled, the gays won, and arguing with assholes isn’t fun. I’m with Terry, but I will admit it’s pretty funny when Savage writes about it.
On a completely different note, Savage tackles physician-assisted suicide in an essay about his mother’s death. It is incredibly moving and sad, and I recommend you perusing it in a bookstore if you read nothing else in this collection.
Who the hell am I kidding? You should read the whole thing. It’s great, and it’ll make you a better person. Or at least a little more knowledgeable person.
JMF Rating: 7/10
’til next time,