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Book review: American Savage by Dan Savage

Though Savage's discursive essays are likely to preach to the choir, his takes on school violence and Rick Santorum are jaunty and cathartic.


By Dan Savage. Dutton, $27.

Dan Savage is a gay superhero. Not only did he create the It Gets Better Project, an anti-bullying campaign to encourage struggling LGBT youth, but he and the readers of his long-running sex-advice column, “Savage Love,” are responsible for a 2003 Google bomb that made the conservative, antigay legislator Rick Santorum’s last name synonymous with “the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex.” Unsurprisingly, the former senator appears among the roster of right-wing villains in Savage’s marvelously discursive and footnote-laden collection of new essays.

“Rick and Me” reveals how Savage helped to taint the presidential hopeful’s failed 2012 campaign and also illuminates how much the two have in common: They both spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about religion, politics and gay sex—Savage because he is a gay political pundit who was raised Catholic, and Santorum because he is an ostensibly straight, Catholic political figure who  dwells maybe just a bit too much on the mechanics of homosexual intercourse. Savage also returns to some of his other causes: end-of-life care, health insurance and gun control. He updates a 1999 essay on a shooting spree in Seattle with thoughts on the recent tragedies of Newtown and Aurora, pointing out the cognitive dissonance of politicians who vote down gun control while keeping their workplace—the U.S. Capitol building—firearm free.

Savage’s target here is the same as it is in the more didactic moments of “Savage Love”: the hypocrisy of political and religious leaders. His signature satirical style makes reading about the antics of Santorum and his ilk a jaunty, possibly even cathartic, affair. American Savage will most likely preach to the choir, but its polemics are still beautiful, verbal slap-downs of sanctimonious bigotry.

Dan Savage talks at the NYPL’s Celeste Bartos Forum Tue 28.

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