"The Truth (With Jokes)," by Al Franken, [is] a gloomier, more astringent book than his "Lies (and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them)," which came out in 2003. Franken's new one has dark circles under its eyes. "The Truth (With Jokes)" went to press before Katrina and the indictment of Lewis Libby, so it already feels mildly dated; and regular readers of political blogs, which have multiplied exponentially since Franken's last book, may feel a lot of the material here (on John Kerry and his "Swift Boat" attackers, Abu Ghraib, Fox News) has already been hashed to death. But Franken is more wicked than your average blogger."More wicked than your average blogger"? What kind of a standard is that? Isn't the average blogger a rather amiable person, telling stories about the kids, the job, hobbies, sports, and TV? Or does "blogger," as used in the NYT, not actually refer to the tens of millions of bloggers on the planet, but to the set of American political bloggers? That might establish some standard of wickedness so that being more wicked than average would mean something, seeing as there are some real bastards at the front end of that bell curve.
But how wicked is Al Franken? The example the Times offered up as proof wasn't pithy enough for me to want to keep in the block quote. The NYT is really trying to sell us on a book that snarks on the current news in a world where most of the writers who satirize current politics react within minutes after news hits the web. Even later the same day, the story seems stale. If you've waited a day to crack your joke, you're better off finding the next thing to snark about. How can you possibly compete on the long time line of a book?
There are at least two good reason for books like this to exist, however.
1. You go to the bookstore. You see the bookcover. You feel: this expresses something. You buy it and voila: this expresses something about me.
2. Look at the damned calendar. It's a Christmas present! For that political friend or family member of yours. Oh, Josh will like this. He's a political junkie.