Considering that Dan Savage is all the rage (and has been for several years) here in San Francisco, I am actually surprised I waited so long to read a book of his. Known for his satiric outlook on society and conservatism, Mr. Savage is a gay Al Franken.
This particular book was inspired by Robert Bork’s “Sloughing Towards Gomorrah,” a “realistic” look at today’s America. Mr. Savage points out quite credibly that conservatives have a history of painting a picture of moral doom, denouncing the current nation, only to turn around at the last second and declare how much they love America.
You could say that Skipping Towards Gomorrah deserves the tag line: “Sin is good.” Mr. Savage travels throughout the nation to commit each of the seven deadly sins, or at least to find someone that commits it.
We start with Greed, which Mr. Savage attempts to capture by gambling. That works well, and we see how greed ends up costing the author some money, but more importantly how gambling and the associated high transform the man. We do notice already that the sin’s definition in the book is not quite what it should be; something that will become even clearer in the next sections.
Lust is defined, for the purposes of the book, as adultery. Given that the author is in a sinful homosexual relationship, he cannot commit adultery himself, so he goes out and finds swingers, couples that like to have casual sex with other couples. One of the fundamental themes of the book is the normality of the sinners’ lives, as well as the hypocrisy of those that condemn only certain sins but leave others that are much more common out of the picture.
Gluttony is represented by the NAAFA, Sloth by dope, Envy by a mingling with the rich and famous, Anger by learning how to shoot with a gun. Pride, most characteristically, is represented by a gay couple that goes to a Gay Pride parade with Mr. Savage. Here the author shows how the original “pride as opposed to shame” has slowly turned into “pride as we are better than you”.
The book is pensive and persuasive, but not very funny. The characters depicted are all very, very human, and Mr. Savage has a gift for quickly capturing the essence of that fragile thing we call compassion. Nobody is treated unfairly, not even the Texan gun shop owner that is probably politically the farthest from the author.
If you want funny, though, you are better of with the caricatures that Al Franken presents. His cartoons are divisive, ridicule, but much easier to laugh about than Mr. Savage’s humans.