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Al Franken, Giant of the Senate Hardcover – May 30, 2017
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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"The best political book of 2017."―Alex Shephard, The New Republic
"In this excellent, insightful memoir, comedian turned senator Franken recalls his unlikely path to public service...Franken is quite a raconteur, and he tells the story of his remarkable life and times with a sense of humor that is always irreverent and often self-deprecating."―Publishers Weekly
"This is a great book about politics. No joke...Compulsively readable [with] laugh-out-loud lines in every chapter."―Booklist Starred Review
"[AL FRANKEN, GIANT OF THE SENATE] may...be the funniest memoir by a sitting - standing, recumbent, squatting - U.S. senator. Scratch that 'may.' It surely is. This is a genuinely funny book, often hilarious...the Senate, and the country, would be the poorer without him. He's an American original."―Christopher Buckley, The Washington Post
"Admirably incautious...Franken has weaponized the gifts that proved so useful for comedy - a sharp eye, a sharper tongue, the ability to tease out the essential absurdity of a given situation and deliver the goods with maximum impact."―Mark Binelli, Rolling Stone
"In a breezy, funny, biting, and often earnest read, Franken pulls off what many of his congressional colleagues have failed to do: write...an interesting and honest memoir."―Sam Brodey, MinnPost.com
"A fun and compelling book. [Franken] uses self-deprecating humor to poke fun at everyone on either side of the aisle, and he gives readers insight into the daily workings of life in the Senate. His love of the people and the state of Minnesota is crystal clear."―Jeff Ayers, AP
"With this book, Franken is both resistance leader and family counselor...A hilarious guide to what happens when a comedian runs for Congress."―The Nation
About the Author
Senator Al Franken has represented Minnesota in the United States Senate since 2009. Before entering politics, he was an award-winning comedy writer, author, and radio talk show host. He's been married to his wife, Franni, for 41 years-many of them happy. They have two children, Thomasin and Joe, and three grandchildren. Senator Franken graduated from Harvard College and received his doctorate in right-wing megalomania studies from Trump University.
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For strategic reasons, Franken has tried very hard not to be funny -- not even at the wit level of a "normal" thoughtful politician -- since taking office. That seemed like it was tough on him, and this memoir makes it clear just how tough it was, not only because Franken had been professionally funny for decades, but also because Franken had always used humor to say whatever he pleased throughout his life. This book is very funny, and Franken both borrows and satirizes the tropes of the traditional political bio in telling his own strange story of his rise to office.
Because Franken gives himself leave to be funny again in this book, he is also very honest about his colleagues, the state of American politics, and himself. He also reminds readers that most politicians do not actually hate each other, and are close friends across the aisle. (He and his wife were close with Sens. Mike Enzi and Mike Johanns, and Franken lauds Sen. Pat Roberts for having a great appreciation of humor.) His chapter on Ted Cruz has gotten the most attention -- though it's just a few pages out of the book -- but it's clear that what really irks Franken about Cruz isn't the latter's politics (though he loathes them) but that Cruz refuses to see the Senate as anything more than a battleground, and stands apart from (and in his mind, above) his peers.
I started thinking that Franken may not have ruled out a presidential run when I got to the parts of the book about his time in the Senate. (This is a memoir of his whole life, though he spends most of it on his political career, so that's maybe half the book.) He writes with sincerity and passion about the issues he cares about, and is honest about flaws in his own party's approach as well as that of the Republicans'. Some of these portions are a bit preachy, but they indicate that Franken really is interested in advancing a progressive agenda. (Franken is farther to the left than I am, so I did not always agree with him, but his points are well-argued.)
This is a fair, funny, and frank book about both today's politics and perhaps its most interesting participant.
He says he feels guilty apologizing for his past career as a humorist. He doesn't recognize that he should feel remorse in not having the guts to become ostracized in the Senate for saying things people don't want to hear, but should. He writes about a joke he talked himself out of telling as if it was, without a doubt, the right decision. I'm not convinced. I would have liked to have him discuss the deeper issues of how it's okay to lie in the Senate, but not satirize. Has he accomplished much playing along? There's an episode where he rolls his eyes and ends up apologizing. However, the speaker was saying things which were the verbal equivalent of eye-rolling. Franken apologized. Why not the other guy? Franken portrays many of these situations where he takes the high ground. He doesn't recognize that to many he doesn't have the courage to stand behind his principles (which is that the speaker was out of line).
Don't get me wrong. I'm not arguing that he should be the court jester. I'm only pointing out that the trade-offs are not addressed in the book. He doesn't trust the reader and I find that unfortunate.