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Dan Savage – American Savage

June 7, 2013

40. American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics by Dan Savage (2013)

Read By: Dan Savage
Length: 7h 41m (320 pages)

Genre: Non-Fiction, Essays

Started: 22 May 2013
Finished: 25 May 2013

Where did it come from? From Penguin Audio for review.
Why do I have it? I’m a dedicated reader/listener of Savage’s column/podcast.

Dan Savage picks his
battles, but there’s a lot out
there he can pick from.

Summary: In his latest book, sex advice columnist Dan Savage provides readers with a series of essays, providing his trademark pragmatic/sarcastic take on a wide variety of issues. A lot of the essays deal with contemporary issues in politics, religion, and American culture, but there are a few that are substantially more personal. The first essay discusses the death of Savage’s mother, and his coming to terms with his faith (or lack thereof), but he goes on from there to cover issues of marriage and being monogamish, the state of sex education, the GGG phenomenon, his challenge to those who think homosexuality is a choice, his adopted son coming out to his fathers as straight, gay stereotypes on TV, the Folsom Street Fair, Halloween, closeted anti-gay legislators, the history of his column and his track record dealing with bisexuality, coming out of the closet now vs. 40 years ago, physician-assisted suicide, the Santorum situation, health insurance, gun violence, and the dinner table debate with Brian Brown.

Review: I love Dan Savage. I started reading his column almost 15 years ago, and have been a faithful listener of his podcast since its inception. It’s one of the only podcasts that I listen to regularly, so when I got the chance to listen to his new book – narrated by Savage himself – I figured it would be great, and jumped at the chance. I was especially pleased, since I had a big drive coming up, and my backlog of Savage Love podcasts is typical roadtrip listening fare, so Dan Savage and the interstate highway system and me all typically get along splendidly.

So how did it work out for me? In truth, it was sort of a mixed bag. To clarify, I did enjoy the book, without question. I listened to it essentially straight through my drive, never switching over to music or another book. It was funny and provocative and touching in turns. I agree with most of what Savage has to say, and he makes his points passionately but eloquently; his level-headed and pragmatic approach to sensitive or taboo issues is a large part of why I’ve been listening to him all these years.

So you might be wondering: if the book was so good, what’s the problem? And I think the problem is exactly that: I’ve been listening all these years. Dan’s voice has been yammering in my ear since 2006, and so I’ve heard him make these same points many times before. The essays that I enjoyed the most were the ones that told stories or addressed topics that I hadn’t heard about before. In particular, I really liked “Crazy, Mad, Salacious”, about the portrayal of gay characters on TV when he was a teen watching with his father, and how it influenced him both positively and negatively, and how he sees similar things in the TV his own son is now watching. But other essays – for example those on Halloween (“The Straight Pride Parade”) or “The Choicer Challenge” – come almost directly from his podcast and/or column, so they weren’t telling me much that was new.

Further, I’ve heard him make these points in a much more off-the-cuff, natural sounding way. Dan on the podcast shooting off his mouth sounds a fair bit different than Dan reading his own writing, and I found the latter a bit distracting given that I’m so used to the former. (I totally understand why this is so, of course; most people don’t write exactly like they talk, or vice versa, and it’s got to be hard to read words that you went over and over during the editing process and make them sound totally fresh – that’s just one of the reasons that I thought Kitchen Confidential was such an outstanding audiobook.) Some of the essays fare better than others; the first essay, about his mother, was one of the less successful from an audiobook perspective – it was obviously a very emotional piece for him to have written, and I could hear him flattening out just to get through reading it out loud. (Which, again: completely understandable, but kind of a shame, since it’s really a beautiful and very moving piece.) 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Fans of his column and podcast are going to be the most likely to enjoy it, but they should be aware that some of it’s going to sound pretty familiar. If you’re a lefty-leaning and not-easily-offended person who is interested in contemporary political and social issues, and aren’t already a fan of Savage’s…. why the heck not?

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Haven’t found any yet. Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Lines: This book? The one you’re holding in your hands? I built it. Or wrote it. Or whatever.

© 2013 Fyrefly’s Book Blog. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Fyrefly’s Book Blog or its RSS feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is being used without permission.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2013 9:03 am

    I’m kind of embarrassed to admit I don’t even know who Savage is.

  2. June 8, 2013 3:59 pm

    Oh how I love Dan Savage. But yeah, the reason I haven’t read any of his books so far is that I imagine I’ve heard a lot of his opinions before on the podcast and in his columns. I think he’s really smart and his opinions are worth having, but I just haven’t happened to pick them up in book format.

    • June 9, 2013 11:16 pm

      The only other one of his books I’ve read was Skipping Towards Gomorrah, and that was literally a decade ago. I don’t remember it being overly repetitive of his column, but it was also pre-podcast, and I feel like he rambles more in the podcasts than he did in the columns of yore. I also have no idea how well that one has aged; American Savage is too focused on current issues to be overly relevant a decade from now (hopefully, anyways!)


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