Friday, January 6, 2012

Andrew Sullivan's favorite novels (are a good measure of his political failures)

I'm taking a break from thinking about comedy right now because, thousands of miles away, my sketch comedy revue is going on. So, let's talk about Andrew Sullivan's favorite novels. And let's take this bird by bird:

Bird A) I talk about Andrew Sullivan a lot because he's a model blogger at times--he talks about a lot of different issues, he continues conversations, he likes dogs; but I also talk about him a lot because I find him so infuriating.

Bird B) For instance, I think art and popular culture are important for political life. (Which is why maybe my real favorite blogging beat is Alyssa Rosenberg over at ThinkProgress.) However, Sullivan doesn't really seem to put a lot of work into culture blogging outside of his particular narrow interests (like pot).

If you're interested, here's Sullivan talking about his favorite novel. And here we have a mix of why I like Sullivan--he's pretty clear about his failings (he doesn't much care for novels, his favorites are pretty nakedly didactic)--and why I don't like him--he's got some failings that he isn't aware of (he doesn't understand the relation between the particular and the general).

I can't help but feel that Sullivan would be a better political commenter if he learned how to empathize with individuals through reading about characters in novels.

Bird C) Along those lines, I can't say that I'm surprised that Sullivan recently watched Ken Burns's Civil War. I wonder if Sullivan ever watched The Wire?


  1. So basically what you mean is that you feel that empathy would suit a political commentator better because its not enough to look at the big picture of the situation but the smaller picture of the people who make up the situation he is commenting on?

    This is not really my forte so forgive me if I misunderstand.

  2. To be totally honest, this post is a little disjointed because it was written while watching TV and thinking about my upcoming show at the Second City (which opened last night). And also because the central point isn't super interesting, I think: it's not just that Sullivan has trouble empathizing with people--because, in many ways, he has trouble seeing the big picture as well (zing!). But, yes, I think I do associate a lack of empathy with a dislike of prose fiction.

    And yes, I do wish politically-interested people paid attention to empathy-training material, like novels, as I think there's definitely a lack of empathy. (You get David Brooks and Sullivan and even Tom Friedman talking about how we all need to share the sacrifice, but they never really seem to understand how some people have less to sacrifice or what it might mean to experience ongoing hardship.)

  3. Gotcha. Sometimes I feel some politically-interested people go in the opposite direction and shut out empathy, but maybe that is just me.