Arts » Books

Savage arguments

Sex advice columnist takes on gay marriage



Dan Savage is a Seattle editor and writer whose advice column "Savage Love" is a popular and controversial part of many alternative weeklies. He's also the author of hits such as Skipping Toward Gomorrah and The Kid. Now he offers his take on the gay marriage debate in The Commitment. He tells the story of his own family's struggle with the issue: He considers marriage a jinx, his mother and straight siblings are for it, his partner doesn't want to "act like straight people," and his 6-year-old son is firmly against gay marriage on the grounds that he doesn't think two men are allowed to get married.

While this sounds like a barrel of monkeys and Savage has been compared to David Sedaris, there is little humor in the book; Savage's acerbic wit is just too sour. But he did make me think. The Commitment presents all sides of the debate in which the good, bad, and ugly are mashed together in a serious conversation about why people get married and whether it's something gays and lesbians should do. He's quick to shoot down the main arguments of conservatives with a well-researched if ungracefully stated argument. He tosses fact after fact to support his arguments, which sometimes are little more than opinions. While he wins the battle, proving over several pages that people like Dubya and Falwell are wrong (How hard is it really, though, to poke holes in anything those two say or do?), Savage still lacks the style to combine fact, argument and personal account into a flowing, enjoyable story.

Savage doesn't spend almost 300 pages advocating gay marriage; he questions it. He asks whether or not marrying now, when it offers no real rights, is a true marriage. He questions his own situation -- why should he marry? Should it be done for the kid? Will it really affirm a committed 10-year relationship? He also gets into the grisly business of questioning the wedding industry, dealing with matters of commercialism, traditionalism, and whether ice sculptures are truly necessary to show one's love for another. The Commitment is a book of questions and Savage's convoluted answers, and while it's a tedious read due to his commitment to an advice column style and his attempts at lame humor, in the end it offers enough insight to be worth a read by any person: gay, straight, married or unmarried.

Add a comment