After reading Andrew Sullivan’s comments yesterday on outing and rediscovering the “old Andrew Sullivan whose blog I once very much enjoyed,” I have wondered if perhaps I had been too hasty in deciding not to buy his book when I saw it last week in the Barnes & Noble in LA’s Grove. I did page through it, but it did not grab me as had his previous book, Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival. I had not planned on buying that book, but as its first pages so engaged me, I quickly changed my mind.
It’s interesting because that book gave me a greater appreciation of Andrew’s writing — and thinking. While I had enjoyed his writing in the early 1990s, by the mid-1990s, his style seemed to become sloppier and he seemed to be borrowing increasingly from the trite cliches of gay activists. He seemed to have lost the unique voice that helped him rise to prominence at such a young age.
Similarly, in the past 2 years and 8 months, Andrew has, by and large, seems to have lost the voice that I grew to admire in the years after reading Love Undetectable. Too often, he seems to be mimicking the rhetoric — and anger — of the Bush-haters. While he claimed to be criticizing the president from the right, he sounded too much like the critics of the left. He even endorsed their standard-bearer in the 2004 election.
And he has used language that is just plain silly, calling circumcision, MGM (Male Genital Mutilation) and repeatedly using the word “Christianist.”
To be sure, there are solid conservative reasons to take issue with President Bush. I, for example, have called the president a moderate and noted how he only done a mediocre job of living up to the Gipper’s legacy.
Andrew has gone a bit further than I have, accusing the President of betraying conservatism. But, given that his rhetoric resembles more that of the angry left than that of the Reaganite right, I’m wondering how qualified he is to tell us how to recover what he calls “The Conservative Soul.”
With his latest piece on outing, Andrew proves that while he may increasingly sound like many of the angry left, he has not completely abandoned his old independence. So maybe he does have something to say on conservatism. I was surprised by his last book. Maybe I will be by this one. Or maybe I’ll find the same sort of rhetoric there that I find all too frequently on his blog.