Here's the story: I read Savage Love (and anything else Dan writes) religiously. Sex positive attitude combined with snarky rejoinders = fabulous and funny. Last night, I was reading the Slog (The Stranger's collaborative blog) and I came across Dan's diatribe against Garrison Keillor. I do not listen to the radio (I am a heathen, I know, and my kind will lead to the death of public culture in America, blah blah blah), but I do have my finger on the pulse of American culture (hard to say that one with a straight face-- soon, I'll be claiming all sorts of false credentials) and I have heard of him/come into proximity with his work/other euphemisms for coming into contact with him only through other people and not ever reading or listening to him myself.
Now, I take Dan's word as gospel, with the occasional exception (he does not like vaginae as a rule; I think vaginae are neato), so when he denounced Keillor as a "withered old hypocrite" for his recent piece on marriage and monogamy in Salon, I assumed that he was accurately describing an anti-gay hate monger (a la Peter Pace). But I was befuddled: I thought Keillor was a progressive? He has a radio show on NPR and he's known for satire, so he must have been kidding, right? I went to the website and read the piece and I must say, I'm conflicted about it. I sent it to Annie, who determined that it was satire and it seemed to have the intent of satire, if not the effect.
Conflicted, I put on my gumshoes (ha ha! get it?), and went to find some answers through the magic of the internet. Basically, I asked my friends and did a google blog search. The Autodidact pointed me to Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish, where he confirms Dan's interpretation. Every blogger who has written about the article in the last two days agrees with their reading. Except my friend, Carebear, who said: "Garrison is too smart not to be writing a certain kind of satire. I think he makes fun of both contemporary and traditional lifestyles equally in this piece. [Yet], I think it doesn't quite hit the target." Compelling arguments all.
But you know me. I can't rest on the laurels of the opinions of others. What's a blogger to do?
Well, being the huge nerd that I am, I printed out the article and mapped Keillor's idea progression, to see if the piece was a cogent satire or the ramblings of a bigoted madman. I will not bore you with the details, but I did write them up and if you email us, I'll send you a copy. I am such a nerd.
Anyway, what were my findings? Keillor's style may be absurdist ramblings, but that doesn't make it good writing. Or funny. Although it did have funny bits. Like the part about the cowboys. The funny bits lead me to believe that he meant the piece to be satire, but misfired. Perhaps the fact that the piece was completely illogical and incoherent speaks to his desire to highlight the absurdity of arguments against gay marriage. Yet, because he was all over the place, he diluted any chance he had at successful satire.
A good satirist knows how to frame the argument logically so that the absurdity of the point speaks for itself. If the framework itself is impossible to decipher and the internal logic impossible to discern, then it doesn't matter if the intent is satire. If no one can read it as satire, it's a failure. And if it's a failure on an issue this sensitive, then it goes to speak against your cause and, worse, it undermines your authority (at least until everyone forgets this ever happened).
My conclusion? Keillor is an asshat not because I think his article actually intended to be insulting to the queer community, but because its affect was insulting and, more importantly, he hasn't come out and apologized (or even commented!). Anyone can shrug off the effect of their words with, "Don't be so sensitive. I was making a joke," but if that's the case, then he should at least have the balls to say so.
Did you hear that Keillor? You have no balls! Just like a toyger.
NB: I mean balls in a figurative sense; as a woman, I have no balls in a literal sense. Nor would do I mean to imply that victims of testicular cancer, a devastating disease that is the most common cancer in American males between the ages of 15 and 34, are not capable of bravely putting themselves on the line.