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Book review: <i>The Truth (With Jokes)</i> by Al Franken



If this was a TV program, it would be the Daily Show Election Special where they actually say what they feel.

Cover

An half-decent cartoon of George Bush Junior as Pinocchio. It’s all a bit of a mish-mash, really – Franken’s publishers don’t seem to really know how whether to opt for zany Barry-style author photos or something more emblematic, and keeping the author’s-name font style from the last two books for no real reason hasn’t really worked either. It’s ugly.

Plot

Non-fiction opinion and analysis relating to the last two U.S. presidential election, and some of the events in between, particularly focusing on the Kerry/Bush fight, the small cabal of neocon hideousness currently in power, and the methods they employ to stay there – you know, the things we’ve almost gotten used to in the last 5 years but which can still cause one to occasionally sigh a gentle sigh and unfocus one’s eyes, looking with longing through memory’s pane, as it were, to the gentle, trustworthy features of Richard Nixon.

The good

Funny! Not Dave Barry funny, but witty, occasionally rude, and alternately self-effacing and amusingly egocentric. Franken is like a better-honed, more focused version of Michael Moore, and the confidence he has in his own skills (more than merely the facts that back him up) give him the ability to lighten up when he needs to and save the killer blows for the best moments. To put it another way, he is the perfect antidote to P.J. O’Rourke – better researched, quicker on his feet, and about seven thousand times less patronising. He respects the intelligence of his audience without ever saying so, which is the exact opposite of P.J.’s approach.

Now, I must admit that a lot of the appeal of this book, to me, is that it allows me to “barrack” for “the good guys” and rustle up a big warm hearth worth of righteous vengeance towards the bitches in Washington. I’m not sure if this is healthy or not, however. Yes they have global influence, and yes, some of them are genuinely evil (where does O’Rourke think Rove and Cheney are going when they die?). But they are, when I get right down to it, the leaders of another country, and perhaps I ought to be using the time spent on this sort of thing educating myself better about our own system. I must admit that the idea of an Australian commentator as good as Franken is a fantastic prospect, especially one shook free of all the boomer-era Clive James/Philip Adams guff I’ve been filtering out of popular commentary since I was born. Come on Aussies, get amongst it!

The bad

Phoo. Hmm. I’m not objective enough to say how enjoyable this would be if you were not at least partly aligned with Franken’s politicals. He uses plenty of facts (with references and a research team to keep him honest), and I suppose a total hater wouldn’t even pick this up in the first place, but I have a feeling it might be a less lighthearted than it feels to me if one were to sift out the opinion while one read. Like P.J. O’Rourke’s latest stuff. This is not a Dave Barry book, in other words – if you are totally at odds with, or have a complete disregard for, the politics inside, there’s not probably not enough going on joke-wise to make it worth the read.
Other than that, this is a blast. Franken’s voice is deft, confident, cheeky and right. He has, to quote P.J. O’Rourke, “perfect pitch”.

What I learnt

Many facts about the Republican Noise Machine which I will not be able to remember the important parts of accurately enough to use in an argument against anybody who disagrees with me regarding them, in the unlikely event that situation should ever occur.

In short

Title: The Truth (With Jokes)
Author: Al Franken
Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition
ISBN: 0452287677
Year published: 2006
Pages: 384

This review was written by Tom Vaughan. Tom has his own website, which contains many other reviews and strips and art and other fun stuff here.

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