Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Skipping Towards Gomorrah

Skipping Towards Gomorrah, by Dan Savage
$15.00 at Amazon.com ISBN: 0452284163
Dan is best known for his newspaper advice column Savage Love, in which he gives unfaltering sex advice to anyone who writes in and asks for it. In this book, a light piece of investigative journalism, he writes about the seven deadly sins: greed, anger, pride, lust, envy, gluttony, and sloth. It's important to mention at this point that Dan is a gay man (and a pretty sexy one, at that) and in these divisive days of "family values" and right-wing morals, plays advocate to all that's sinful, degrading, and one's right to do as an American citizen. If you're not American, it's a great book to gain some insight into our character.
While researching this book, he tried each of the seven sins for himself, and then wrote about the experience. For greed, he played at a high stakes casino. Anger involved a firing range, lust a swingers' club, and so on. This is one of those rare books that works on a number of different levels: his experiences are entertaining enough, told with charming self-deprecating humor. On another level, though, is what these activities represent, the ideological problems they create, and a consideration of personal freedom.
For example, my favorite of the seven deadly chapters involves gluttony, the sin of overeating. Dan, although he's got a very nice body himself, visits a convention of the National Association for Fat Acceptance (NAFFA). Here's a group of people who say that being fat is healthy, attractive, and actually not sinful at all! Their feelings on this controversial topic comes across as quite reasonable, some of the fat people seem pretty cool, and there's talk of weight loss surgery and other timely issues. I wouldn't say they won me over to the idea that being fat is "attractive", still I'm a thin person who's open-minded enough to be interested by their their side of the story.
It's a very funny book. One scene Dan runs through the woods with his hand down his underpants, in another he finds a washing machine lined with marijuana. Yet beyond the jokes is a serious question about individual liberty, and the proposal that maybe these sins aren't as wicked as they're said to be. After all, most of us enjoy at least one or two of them, and how can it be really evil when it's so common? In spite of his rudeness and vulgarity, Dan turns out to be a pretty good role model and a class act. Plus you'll never find a book that was more fun to write.

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