Wednesday, May 24

Book Review: Al Franken's The Truth (with Jokes)

A big thanks to Bill O'Reilly for reminding me that he was ignoring Al Franken's book. I forgot:

"When he attacked me in his book a couple of weeks ago -- not a couple of weeks ago, a couple of years ago -- News Corporation made a mistake in actually trying to sue the guy, and, of course, that helped his book sales.

Now, his last book bombed, nobody bought it, because we all ignored it."

Can you feel the spin, folks? Let me translate O'Reilly for you, just for fun:

"My rampantly inflated ego was offended by Franken's book, and I made Rupert Murdoch's lawyers sue over it. We got laughed outta court, and Al Franken still makes fun of us at his paid personal appearances. I am personally responsible for making his Lies book a bestseller. He admits that. Ain't I a laughingstock?"

I feel so much like Al Franken right now I might really be him, because I'm gonna do a little fact check on O'Reilly. Fingers quivering, but here goes:

Publisher's Weekly reports that The Truth was the 19th most popular non-fiction book of 2005, with sales of 560,163. No big threat to Da Vinci Code, nor to his Lies and the Lying Liars book, which by many accounts was a landmark bestseller with sales approaching a million copies. Franken's self-narrated audio book of The Truth was one of the top three best selling audiobooks of the year and won audiobook of the year for humor. So great job bombing that book, Bill. points out:

Like his conservative counterparts, Franken has hit upon a method for publishing political books that is the closest thing to a money-printing machine known to mankind. The O'Reillys, Hannitys and Coulters of the world seem to come out with an annual book that is simply a compilation of their on-air rants and political tirades. Obviously, based on the sales of each of these works, there is an audience willing to digest this material in its written form. Franken takes the same tactic in his book, presenting material familiar to any listener of his daily Air America show, but with one major difference: Franken is funny.

If you Blue Gal readers haven't picked this one up yet, now is the time. I'm astonished at just how bad the Bush Administration really is and really has been, for when you read it all in one book it could make you sick. If you believe Al Franken, he himself is hospitalized with toxic shock from reporting on Karl Rove's political dirty tricks. And remember, this book came out BEFORE Katrina, three-dollar gas, and 29%.

You may remember in my review of Joan Didion's Year of Magical Thinking, I mentioned that Didion's erudite prose is a necessary cushion to her subject matter, death. The same is true here for Franken: even the staunchest Democrat (uh, that would be me) could hardly stand a straight-faced litany against what has happened to our country in the past five plus years. In spite of their endorsement from the reality-based community, I humbly confess I have not and could not read the serious canon regarding Bushco: Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack, Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies, David Phillips' Losing Iraq. I confess I need the digestive aid of Franken, Stephen Colbert, and Jon Stewart. I need the cushion of humor and snark just to get through it. The truth, without the jokes, just isn't palatable.

This book has some wonderful chapters. The one on God is short, personal, poignant, and exposes the lie that the left is bereft of spirituality. If you thought we Blues were finished with Tom Delay, Chapter 10 will convince you obscurity is not punishment enough. And the chapter on Social Security had me laughing so hard Mr. Blue Gal asked me to stop reading. Finally, this is the only book I've ever read which purports to have an embedded LSD tab (page 193 in the hardcover edition, save you the search) so that you, the reader, can trip on the same drugs our President was apparently doing when he said the Social Security trust fund was "a bunch of worthless IOU's." (That is US Treasury Bonds to you and the rest of the investing world.) Mine was a library copy (I didn't want to skew the sales figures and get O'Reilly's panties in a wad) and another library patron got the LSD tab first.

One statement Franken makes must be contradicted. On page 143 he says that in the Terri Schiavo debacle "can be seen all the elements of dishonesty, hypocrisy, extremeism, and corruption that I believe will lead to the utter destruction of the Republican Party within one year and one month of the publication of this book [October 2005]." As I wondered ablog two weeks ago as to whether I'd missed the GOP's funeral, I think Franken is a little off on his dates. Fix that in the second edition, will ya, Al?


  1. OOOHHHH..first comment?

    I love all of AL's books..they rock and as you said..its impossible to read all the Shrub's screwups without a punchline.It makes one physically ill. I would like to suggest however a good read that if taken in small doses is very enlightening..Kevin Phillips "American Theocracy"..he was one of the original founding fathers of conservativism..and now shilling for the left I think(gasp)..He also has a blog over on TPM.

  2. Thanks Dusty. Kevin Phillips blog, which is actually on Huffington (no biggie I get 'em mixed up all the time) is here.

  3. In Borden's Bokks at least, Franken's book after so many months STILL doesn;t have a discount sticker on it ( nor does TDS's "America") Damn you, free market supply and demand economy!

  4. The chapter on Delay is the best part of the book.

  5. btw BlueGal... as a belated follow up to your now archived post about the nature of blogging I have a new post on my own blog that is not philosophical but a response to a more recent villification of bloggers made by the NPR ombudsman. I don't mean this comment to be promotional especially because the post is very long and very boring--not my usual style, but you or anybody else, swing on by just for this one post. It's tedious but telling by example as to how some bloggers have higher standards than some of those in the MSM.
    and sorry about the typos on my previous comment,

  6. 5th and the rest of you, occasional, on-topic pimping is encouraged here.

  7. I have my own signed copy right next to me as I type :-)

    I think this book is even better than Lies, and Big Fat Idiot.

    If you haven't had the chance to listen to Franken's show, or see the show live (he tours across the country at times broadcasting the show at theatres, free admission, etc), or if you haven't seen him speak live, please go/listen.

    He's not just funny; he's passionate, and really cares about the messages he delivers, and that strikes me most about him.

  8. Saw him live in Birmingham AL and was definitely worth the time and money. Funny, passionate, right.

  9. What would one do to get on Bill O'Reilly's Enemies List?

  10. 5th estate is being modest- he completely outclassed an 'objective' memeber of the msm. it is worth slogging through. take a look!

  11. i think he's great, passionate and bright and a cutting humor!

  12. Hes also writing over at the TPM cafe it seems, here is the link to his latest:

  13. Anonymous11:02 AM

    I'm STILL laughing at the cartoon-strip "Supply Side Jesus" that was featured in the back of his last book.

    Thanks for the review.

    PS: Welcome home.


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