November 13, 2005

"More wicked than your average blogger"?

A squib about Al Franken's new book in the NYT Book Review:
"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.


brylin said...

When I was in Europe last year hostelling with my 15-yr old son, we encountered the term "wicked" as used (overused) by young Brits as meaning cool, excellent, etc. And it can also mean outrageous or respected. The Times is showing its approval for Franken.

But more wicked than Kos?

wildaboutharrie said...

Those of us who grew up in the Boston area know that "wicked" (or more specifically, "wicked pissa") is a term of respect, surely.

Ron said...

I somehow don't think the NYT has slipped into British slang here. I also find it loathsome how much slamming of blogging there is as an activity, as if it were only from a political/cultural perspective the media dislikes! (I think Claire in this last season of SFU; those occasional blogger slams were jarring!)

Ann Althouse said...

I'm pretty sure the NYT is using the word to mean "Playfully malicious or mischievous" and not "Strikingly good, effective, or skillful" -- to quote two dictionary definitions.

erp said...

No one in their right mind spends their own money buying these leftwing fantasies like the Clinton books, Franken, Mapes, Corn et al.

I think there must be a slush fund which transfers money to leftwing authors sort of like a money laundering operation.

paulfrommpls said...

I don't want to believe that the political satire book era is dead or deserves to be simply because of blogs. I still think there's a market for a summing-up, from a unique point of view, and of course it would have to be well-written.

I have no idea whether either of the last two apply to Franken's latest. He's still sometimes funny, though less funny when angriest and (correspondingly) not totally honest. But if he could break through his rage and write something actually reflective, offering some generosity on his opponents' points of view and some humor directed at his own side, it could be a great book.

I don't think he's capable of it, sadly.

Palladian said...

I have the same thought whenever I go to the Strand Bookstore in New York- there is a whole shelf absolutely full of anti-Bush books, each with a cover and title trying to outdo the cynicism and hysteria of each other. As a joke on a friend, I once made a little sign and taped it on the shelf: "Post-Election Sale! Anti-Bush Books: 50¢ a pound" and took a picture of it to send to him.

Funny, the books are all still there, looking as pathetic as Christmas trees in July.

erp said...

Has anybody noticed at airport newsstands, where space is limited and only a hand full of books can be displayed, all the anti-Bush books are lined up at eye level.

When I have time, I discretely rearrange them and put pro-Bush books in front of them. Silly and childish. Yes, but we have to take our fun where we can find it.