Governor Sanford's Fictional Counterpart

Ever since the news broke of Mark Sanford's Argentine adventure, I've had a funny feeling that I've read about similar breakdowns. I'm not talking about the real ones of Ensign or Craig or Foley or Spitzer or Blago, ad infinitum, but fictional ones. But I've been afflicted with the same aggravating brain freeze I get whenever someone asks me to recommend a book (book? I know nothing about books!). So readers, I turn to you. Does Sanford have a fictional counterpart? Have you read about an upright character who abdicates all responsibility for his (or her) mistress and then returns to face the music?

Just thought of one...Anna Karenina. Others?

By Rachel Hartigan Shea |  June 25, 2009; 10:21 AM ET
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I think it's the "and returns to face the music" part that's limiting. Characters who just bail on their responsibilities are legion.

Posted by: crunchyfrog | June 25, 2009 12:35 PM

Irving Stone's book on Michelangelo was titled "The Agony and the Ecstasy." I guess these are more cases of the Ecstasy and then the Agony.

In a recent review, the reviewer referred to the "Holy Trinity of Bakker, Swaggart, and Haggard." I'm like Larry Flynt, it isn't the behavior that troubles me so much as the hypocrisy--a grandstanding Idaho Senator Craig calling President Clinton a "nasty, nasty, nasty boy."

Posted by: lheffelkcrrcom | June 25, 2009 2:52 PM

The first literary character that comes to mind is Emma in “Madame Bovary.” But like one reader pointed out, the ‘face the music’ criterion is limiting. I don’t think Emma’s arsenic ingestion counts as 'facing the music'. In addition, her qualification as an ‘upright character’ is highly debatable. But then, Flaubert let us into all of Emma’s nasty, hidden secrets. We only see the public Governor Stanford. Who knows, the similarities may run deeper. Bottom line: We all have a tarnished, dark side. Some of us simply have the luxury of nobody being interested in it. Lucky us!

Posted by: Sarah_McCoy | June 25, 2009 8:55 PM

"Rabbit" Angstrom might fit the bill...

Posted by: james2033 | June 26, 2009 8:49 AM

I haven't read Sue Miller's latest--did read some reviews of it--would seem a possibility.

Posted by: lheffelkcrrcom | June 26, 2009 9:48 AM

Crunchyfrog is right: the "facing the music" part is limiting in finding a fictional character who aligns with Stanford. If we can subtract that part, then I'd vote for Somerset Maugham's Moon and Sixpence.

Posted by: cebeling | June 26, 2009 10:05 AM

I think you all are right about "facing the music," especially since the governor didn't actually choose to do it: A reporter waylaid him at the airport. I guess I'm more interested in outwardly solid citizens who just drop everything and flee their regular lives.

Posted by: rhshea | June 26, 2009 10:23 AM

How about E. Henderson of “Henderson the Rain King”? He dropped everything and went to the African Arnewi tribe. Bellow describes his public persona as rich, affluent, and physically fit. But, again, inside was an altogether different story. Most “drop everything and flee” characters are fleeing or chasing some inner demon. I’m curious what Governor Stanford’s story would be if he had an all-knowing author writing his tale.

Posted by: Sarah_McCoy | June 26, 2009 1:52 PM

I was immediately reminded of Dick Diver's breakdown in F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'Tender is the Night.' His infatuation with the young actress Rosemary Hoyt was merely the catalyst for his spectacular fall from grace. He was once as promising as Sanford but quickly spiraled out of control.

Posted by: emily28 | June 30, 2009 3:54 PM

Gregory McDonald's 1983 mystery Fletch and the Man Who features a character--a state governor, no less--who disappears regularly for several days at a time. His wife, family, and staff have no idea where he goes. His mysterious activities turn out to be more benign than Governor Sanford's, but the comparison is interesting. I've posted more details at

Posted by: LHCommun | July 2, 2009 12:35 PM

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