Savage Vs Brezny: Love and Warnings

The Ottawa XPress – November 24, 2005
BOOK REVIEW

Dan Savage’s Commitment (Dutton/Penguin, 304 pp., $35.00) vs Rob Brezsny’s Pronoia (North Atlantic/Frog Ltd., 296 pp., U.S. $25.50).

Dan Savage’s “Commitment”

Savage – ON COMMITMENT AND THE ULTIMATE BENEVOLENCE OF THE CONSCIOUS UNIVERSE

In his new book, The Commitment, scandalous and sensible syndicated Savage Love columnist Dan Savage thinks about tying the knot with his lover, Terry Miller. But there are a few battles to fight first.

“We’d just gotten D.J. off to bed, and Terry and I were sitting on the sofa, having a beer, and watching South Park – the usual gay lifestyle stuff. We would have gotten around to sodomy too, if I hadn’t brought up the budget.”

Finances, wedding cakes and invitations – the usual wedding concerns. Add to that Dan’s fear of jinxing a good thing.

The fact that their anniversary party/wedding reception planner, Caroline, married her husband in the same banquet room then later divorced him when she discovered he was a coke addict is just one jinx too many for Dan.

But “nothing can fuck you guys up but you guys,” she says.

She’s not the only one who sees it that way. Dan’s loveable mom, family, friends, and Dan and Terry’s six-year-old son are all for the couple celebrating their big gay love, but Dan wonders, Why get married in the first place?

So he reflects on the dangerous state of modern love by comparing it to his grandparents’ day.

Big differences, all except for one – the United States of America still aren’t bending on same-sex unions. Incompatible couples, wife beaters and cheaters can get married though, as long as there’s a man and a woman.

In Commitment, Dan Savage exposes this ridiculous side to legal marriage with intellectual rigour. And his compelling and clever arguments that show up the inconsistency and ludicrous irrationality parading as reason and law in the American system will leave you aghast with disbelief at the behaviours and sad state of our anti-gay-marriage neighbours to the south.

When Savage quotes Prime Minister Paul Martin, you’ll be very proud to be Canadian.

Even more educational is what homosexuals in a positive, healthy, committed relationship reveal to us heterosexuals about the myth of completion, monogamy and other delusions.

“Without the option of making a spectacle out of our commitments… we were forced to simply live our commitments,” writes Savage.

“Our relationships were taken seriously… by virtue of their duration… not by virtue of promises we made before the Solid Gold dancers jumped out of the wedding cake at the reception.”

Rob Brezsny’s “Pronoia”

Brezsny – PICKIN’ UP GOOD VIBRATIONS

When times are tough, and we’re down on our luck, many of us turn to Mom.

She’ll say things like, “As long as you’ve got eyes to see the blue sky, ears to hear the birds sing and legs to walk, life ain’t ever that bad.”

But when you’ve cried eyeballs out of their sockets, your ears are bleeding from your own shrieks, and you fantasize about getting into an accident just to see how many send flowers, you need a stronger dose of mantras.

Enter Rob Brezsny’s Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You With Blessings. He’ll convince you that the universe is inherently friendly and out to help, not haunt you.

Next to Savage Love, Brezsny’s Free Will Astrology is one of the most widely syndicated columns in North American alternative newsweeklies. And with his new book he offers up a 296-page smorgasbord (i.e., personal thoughts, poems, mottos, news briefs, prayers, oracles, homeopathic medicine spells) designed to make you rejig your outlook on life.

He reminds you that Picasso popped out of the womb blue and was left to die until an uncle puffed cigar smoke up his nose, which revived him.

He’ll order you gently to stop taking things for granted: “In your kitchen, appetizing food in secure packaging is waiting for you. Many people you’ve never met worked hard to grow it, process it, and get it to the store where you bought it,” he writes. “The bounty of tasty nourishment you get to choose from is unprecedented in the history of the world.”

Always lyrical, the stream-of-consciousness and artsy passages flow without ever trivializing deep meanings. Other times, the impeccable and straight-up discussions tackling capitalism and cautioning against selfishness are the welcomed wisdom of a nurturing friend, which is what many consider Brezsny.

But he warns that being positive is a hard job. “If you cultivate an affinity for pronoia,” he writes, “people you respect may wonder if you have lost your way. You may appear to them as naive, eccentric, unrealistic, misguided, or even stupid.”

Time to replace hotel Bibles, and maybe Mom, with a copy of this sucker.

– Sylvie Hill