Andrew Sullivan, the weirdo-crank/intellectual/beard-fetishist/dope-smoker/Catholic/beagle-fan/pro-obama-conservative/English/American/Palin-obsessive/HIV+ genius who invented both blogging and gay marriage published his final blog post today.
I’m verklempt. I read his blog religiously, day-in and day-out for the final eight of the staggering 15 years it was online. To say I “didn’t always agree with him” would be a platitude: not just because his ideas were so idiosyncratic but because the dude wrote so damn much nobody could possibly “always agree with him”, not even himself.
It’d be soft-selling it to call him an “influence”: Andrew Sullivan defined blogging as a form, one as different from OpEd writing as ballet is to yoga. He made it what it is, explored what it could be and sketched what it ought to strive to be. To anyone who took blogging seriously as blogging, he was an obligatory reference, and his retirement is an immense blow.
His last post, today, puts it well, with that clear, vibrant, urgent voice he honed over so many years at it:
What I have written here should not be regarded as interchangeable with more considered columns or essays or reviews. Blogging is a different animal. It requires letting go; it demands writing something that you may soon revise or regret or be proud of. It’s more like a performance in a broadcast than a writer in a book or newspaper or magazine (which is why, of course, it can also be so exhausting). I have therefore made mistakes along the way that I may not have made in other, more considered forms of writing; I have hurt the feelings of some people I deeply care about; I have said some things I should never have said, as well as things that gain extra force because they were true in the very moment that they happened. All this is part of life – and blogging comes as close to simply living, with all its errors and joys, misunderstandings and emotions, as writing ever will.
I tried, above all, to be honest. And you helped me. Being honest means writing things that will make you look foolish tomorrow; it means revealing yourself in ways that are not always flattering; it means occasionally saying things that prompt mass acclamation but in retrospect look like grandstanding. It means losing friends because you have a duty to criticize what they write. It means not pretending you believe something you don’t – like a tall story from a vice-presidential candidate or a war narrative that was increasingly obsolete. It means writing dangerously with the only assurance – without an editor – that readers will correct you when you’re wrong and encourage you when you are right. It is a terrifying and exhilarating way to write – and also an emotionally, psychologically depleting one. But I loved it nonetheless. I relished it every day. I wouldn’t trade these years for any others.
I’ve never met Andrew Sullivan, but I still think of him as my mentor. I count the handful of times he picked up something I’d written and ran it on The Dish as the pinnacle of my career.
His departure leaves a big, fat void on my Bookmarks Bar, one that won’t easily be filled.
All the best, Sully. I can’t thank you enough.