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« Shrinkage | Main | Impending »

Apr 26, 2009

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DW

I stopped reading the younger Buckley's memoir after a few paragraphs, even though I've been a big fan of his novels and essays.

When he started revealing unflattering details about his recently dead parents it just seemed so ... tawdry. And puerile. Very unbecoming for a 55-year-old man.

Ed Cone

To each his own.

I found Buckley's article well-written, resonant, and touching, and reflective of an enviable maturity and insight.

Not every reader will agree, although the percentage of those who do is probably higher among people who actually read the article.

DW

Well, maybe I should have read further. I started feeling like a voyeur into private griefs and pecadillos which I felt the deceased Buckleys would have preferred to keep private, so I stopped.

But if my impression was wrong, let me know. As I said, I'm a fan of Christopher Buckley -- especially Thank You For Smoking and Wry Martinis.

Ed Cone

Pat Buckley does not come across as a sympathetic character. Does that make the article by her son objectionable? Perhaps, to some readers.

I have my issues with the tell-all culture, but this is a family that chose to live much of its life in public, and memoirs should contain a certain degree of candor.

I found CB's honesty bracing, and he is not without sympathy for his mother.

He clearly adored his dad, difficult as it was at times to be the son of a "great man," as WFB is described.

I read the article with interest, and with admiration for CB as a writer and an adult son of famous parents.

The Queenan piece was harder for me to read. The story is bleaker, and we were friendly with Joe when we worked at Forbes together.

Ian McDowell

The review of Queenan's book does indeed make it sound bleak. I generally thought Queenan a posturing asshole when I read his old SPY magazine articles and his occasional New York Times Book Review slams (I've not been a fan of Stephen King for over twenty years, but Queenan's claim that only fat nerds with a wardrobe of black t-shirts like his stuff is manifestly untrue, and his screed about the awfulness of all British humor, from Monty Python to Douglas Adams, would have been more effective if it was actually funny). Now that I know a bit more about his life, I understand him a bit more.

In one of his SPY pieces, he went to every arthouse cinema in New York and talked loudly to the screen and generally made a belligerent jerk out of himself, the "humorous" point being that people who watch Woody Allen movies and French films were pussies who wouldn't stand up to him. Reading it at the time, I found myself wishing I was there so I could get in his face, although I now see that he's a big brawler who might well have kicked my ass if I came over the seats at him.

As for Buckley, I found the Times Magazine piece touching, and suspect the portrait of Pat will be more nuanced when the inevitable book comes out. It didn't strike me as memoirsploitation or cheaply mean-spirited, but an honest evocation of family pain. As a data point, over on an online forum devoted to the writer Harlan Ellison (easily as obnoxious as Queenan), another writer said he always thought of William F. Buckley as a "monster" (a view I don't share, as I admired the man), but that Christopher's piece gave him a lot more respect and empathy for Bill.

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