Monday, October 13, 2008

Dan Savage, The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family, 2005.

I first encountered Savage when I read, at the urging of a former co-worker, a couple of Savage’s advice columns: Savage Love. While far more entertaining than most such columns, I wasn’t hugely excited. Then I heard him on one of my addictions: the NPR show This American Life. Surely, if Ira Glass likes the guy’s writing... I was hooked. Even Savage’s voice works well, drawing you into his stories.

It was one of those stories which inspired me to get this book out from HPL. Savage was talking about his son’s opposition to Savage marrying his boyfriend Terry, and I found myself in tears by the end of that act of TAL (which you can listen to here). When I learnt that there was an entire book devoted to the musings, I placed a hold.

It is a book that is by turns touching, vitriolic, foul-mouthed, pensive, inquisitive; it is an incisive commentary on the state of the United States, with some travelogue-esque sections that made me remember de Tocqueville. At its heart, though, it’s a book about what family is and means. Savage’s own large family, whose various members have adopted diverse varieties of familial models, provides much fodder for Savage attempting to make sense of one question: should he and Terry get married? I didn’t cry again, reading it, but I found myself feeling a number of moments quite intensely. One such moment, well worth years of future consideration, is about our relationships in neighbourhoods: how they’re constructed, how we attempt to escape them, how we re-create them in later life. One large Catholic family, rooted in one area of a city for a number of generations offers a treasure trove for thinking about individuals, families, and communities.

So, it's a book I'm glad that TAL pointed me toward. I promise to let it pick my books for me even more frequently.

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