Dan Savage can never be accused of being shy or quiet. One can’t be and make a living as a sex advice columnist, and a gay one at that. Over the years, he has made a name for himself not only for the advice he gives but also for his rabid following and his impact on the equal rights movement, especially the It Gets Better project. In American Savage, Mr. Savage tackles an eclectic range of topics that include his experiences as a parent, his mother’s death, gay pride, the political left, and others. He provides thoughtful insight into each topic while remaining true to his ideals and manages to insert his unique brand of humor as well.
One of the best things about American Savage is the care Mr. Savage takes to cite all statistics and quotes he references throughout the book. Not only that, but he takes the time to explain the context of his chosen quote or statistic. As he posits the dangers of taking facts out of context or of the failure of various news media to fact-check, this is reassuring that he practices what he preaches. This is important given how many hot-button topics upon which he expounds throughout the book – national healthcare, doctor-assisted suicide, sex education, and religion, just to name a few. A reader may not agree with his opinions, but one has to appreciate his diligence at providing the full picture of any given argument rather than just a one-sided rant without data to back up his statements.
Mr. Savage is not afraid to admit his mistakes, nor does he avoid calling a spade a spade. This can make for an amusing, although somewhat crude, dialogue as he discusses how much he has learned over his twenty years of writing his column and sets the record straight for those who might use some of his columns to skew an issue. Those who follow Mr. Savage, or politics, know about his involvement in Rick Santorum’s Google problem. It was all over the headlines last year. In case you don’t know what the kerfuffle is, be warned before you Google it that it is not for the squeamish, easily offended, or socially conservative. For those who already know, or are not afraid of what they are going to find, the chapter in which Mr. Savage sets the record straight on Santorum’s Google problem is sharp, politically aware, and absolutely hilarious. It is a perfect example of how careful Mr. Savage is to make sure everyone understands both sides of an argument.
Mr. Savage not only spends his time writing his column, but he does quite a bit of public speaking as well. This stands him in good stead as narrator for the audiobook. His voice is enjoyable, while his presentation is even more so. He masters the irony and the sarcasm that sneaks its way into the narrative. However, it is when he is discussing his mother’s death and his own son’s “coming out” where his performance truly shines. The emotion he tries to disguise is absolutely heart-breaking and does more to prove how honest and open he is about everything than anything else he could say about his experiences or his opinions. Some books are meant to be read, and some books are meant to be enjoyed as an auditory experience. Given Mr. Savage’s speaking prowess, and the enhanced enjoyment his performance brings to his written word, American Savage is one novel meant to be enjoyed via audiobook.
Just like the Rick Santorum issue, American Savage is not necessarily for conservatives given his very progressive opinions. However, while he has no problem ridiculing the conservative left, he does present their viewpoints and does allow readers to form their own opinions. This speaks to his brilliance in remaining relevant, insightful, and – for all his mockery – fair. He uses his own personal experience but backs up his opinions with scientific data and actual quotes from public sources, but most importantly, he cites everything he uses so that a reader can also do his or her own research. The end product is amusing, informative, tremendously thought-provoking, and definite worthwhile reading in our current political chaos.