Friday, May 08, 2009

Buckley on the Buckleys

Christopher Buckley has been writing lately about his life with, and the deaths of, his parents, William F. and Patricia.  We read with great interest his memoir in the Times magazine two weeks back, which is linked above.

We give Buckley a great deal of credit for this.  Writing about one's dead parents is probably hard enough under any circumstances (we say "probably" because we haven't yet had the opportunity to try.  Our parents live in Tucson, which may be as hot as Hell, but which we are reliably informed is actually on Earth).  In Buckley's case, the job is made much more difficult by the fact that his parents were wealthy, famous, controversial and -- yet -- deeply beloved by a vast number of friends.  We imagine it is a challenge to write anything about such people, knowing that every syllable will be scrutinized by friends and enemies alike, all of whom truly believe that they knew your parents better than you did.

Still, he does, and it is fascinating.  Both of them tended toward self-dramatization, but only one did so in print, so it is not surprising to learn that Buckley pere was a deeply religious Catholic who liked his Masses Latin and, toward the end, popped pills like candy, and thought about suicide.  This complements a recent Vanity Fair portrait, which made William F. out to be the sort of snob who truly believed that the wealthy are more virtuous than the poor.  Christopher doesn't mention that part, and although he does tell a few stories that make the old man look destructively self-important (Christmas on the yacht!), this is a loving and intimate picture of the Buckley we assumed we knew.

The description of Mrs. Buckley is more surprising, at least to those of us who didn't travel in her circle.  She was apparently a great liar, among many other faults.  She was prone to making wicked scenes, of the sort that embarrass anybody in the room capable of embarrassment, and used the lies not only to aggrandize herself but to hurt others.  We at the Egg are tempted to diagnose borderline personality disorder, and would do so at once if we were in even the slightest way qualified.

Anyway, it's a touching article that must have been difficult to write.  It's also very funny, and we recommend it.

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