I’m currently finishing the last volume of Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time. One of the book’s themes is the decline and fall of Kenneth Widmerpool, a friend (sort of) of the narrator who is introduced in the first pages of the first volume, some forty years before the series’ end.
It occurs to me that there are several parallels between the collapse of Kenneth Widmerpool and that of Andrew Sullivan, who was once a respected journalist and even called himself a conservative. For whatever reason, Sullivan has now fallen to a state from which one can only avert one’s eyes. Cassandra takes a last look at Sullivan’s terminal obsession, Trig Palin–he is a “birther” of a particularly crazed sort. The most sympathetic thing we can do at this point is draw the curtain.
PAUL adds: John, I’m delighted that you enjoyed Dance enough to have made it to the end of Powell’s twelve volumes. Sir Kenneth (or “Ken” by the end, if I recall correctly) strikes me as rather more interesting than Sullivan.
JOHN adds: Paul introduced me to Dance several years ago. My wife, who is also an astute literary critic, says that Sullivan reminds her of Ralph Trilipush, the title character in Arthur Phillips’ The Egyptologist, in the obsessive and delusional ravings that occupy the (somewhat too long) last chapters of the book. Phillips is, I believe, a family friend of Scott’s.
SCOTT adds: On the decline and fall of Andrew Sullivan, don’t miss this Ace of Spades post.
Arthur Phillips’s father is Minneapolis attorney Felix Phillips. I worked as a summer clerk for Felix between my first and second year of law school, and wrote about my attendance at the Federalist Society 2006 annual conference with Felix in Washington in “Are you now or have you ever been?”
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