Beautiful Buckleys

26buckley-600  One more day of lectures. One day of review sessions/class presentations. Finals. Can you hear the angels singing? The semester is almost over.

Perhaps my unbreakable good mood explains why I liked Christopher Buckley's article in the Times about his parents. I am not a fan of his writing. He tries too hard to be cute and I frown on forced cute. I wanted to red pencil to a couple of annoying lines in the essay, but I kept reading any way, because the subject of the essay was so compelling. The slide show is also good.

Buckley does paint a wonderful image of his glamorous parents. Intellectual, fun, daring. They traveled the world and had fab dinner parties. They were completely devoted to each other. Sure, they were crappy parents, but it is terribly hard to be both a good parent and an intellectual, glamorous partier.

Steve and I have made some trade-offs. Instead, of the Buckley life-style, we read the New Republic in the stands at soccer games and have an extra glass of wine at the local burger joint. I write after the kids go to sleep, and Steve gets another shipment of books from Amazon. I like to think we made the right choice.

12 thoughts on “Beautiful Buckleys

  1. I enjoyed Buckley’s piece, and his interview with Scott Simon on Saturday. I know his parents were exceptional, but still, back in the 60s, when I was a kid in NJ, kids were not the center of their parents’ worlds. My parents had a life apart from us – dinner parties, trips, etc., and I don’t think I got much help with my homework.(One great quote I remember from an article about that time: “We did our homework in our rooms while our parents drank martinis and watched Walter Cronkite.”) That’s how it was then, and we survived and felt loved and safe at the same time. Granted, my parents were thrilled to sit through my college graduation, but I’m not sure things haven’t gone too far in the other direction.

  2. Deirdre,
    Good point. There’s also the issue of CB’s third kid. It really takes a lot of chutzpah to write a book on how rough mom and dad were on you under the circumstances.

  3. It struck me as a deeply sad piece, actually. He seems so in awe of his father, and yet describes his mother unforgivingly, while not, apparently, considering that she may have been as much a product, as a cause, of the marriage she was in. Buckley senior comes of as an arse. Does Buckley junior know that? I couldn’t tell. He thinks his father was a “Great Man”, comparing him, pathetically, with Churchill who, for all his failings (and he had many) actually was one. Riveting, certainly.
    (Not as sad as Martin Amis’s memoirs, which are all about his relationship with his father who he clearly loved but paints as an unrelenting shit, and seems not to know either that he is painting him that way or that the memoir is all about him).

  4. Demonstration, as if one were necessary, that Harry is more compassionate than I. I found the piece insufferable, rather than sad, and quit after page three. Who needs a paean to the perils of excessive privilege?

  5. There’s one bit that he tells a really boring story just so he can mention that his daughter is friends with a Kennedy. I did walk away from the article w/a respect for Buckley Sr’s ability to churn out books.
    Re: the pain of reading about horrible people. I just finished Bobos in Paradise. Parts of it are unreadable because he describes such perfectly awful people. Parts of it are terribly dated. And one chapter is really, really interesting.

  6. “I did walk away from the article w/a respect for Buckley Sr’s ability to churn out books.”
    I have a somewhat out-of-control tendency to do armchair psychology, but I’m pretty sure from reading the excerpt that WFB
    must have had some degree of ADD. Consider all that fidgety energy, the productivity in half-a-dozen areas, the travel, the bolting from CB’s college graduation, the channel-surfing, the use of Ritalin in his final year, etc. Last but not least, CB’s third child is alleged to have severe ADD that requires a special school placement.
    “Re: the pain of reading about horrible people. I just finished Bobos in Paradise. Parts of it are unreadable because he describes such perfectly awful people.”
    The painful thing is the self-recognition: I’m a Bobo, you’re a Bobo, etc. Stuff White People Like is somewhat similar, although I think there are fewer SWPLs than Bobos. Or maybe the SWPL is the advanced Bobo. I’ve praised both books to my relatives in the tourist industry for their value as market research.

  7. Yup. I bailed in the middle of the Kennedy story. The don’t-give-a-shit factor rose up above acceptable limits. Is this sort of thing really the best the Times can do?
    After reading “Boo-boos in Paradise” I’m left wondering whether Bobos should be re-shelved in fiction.
    Amy, have you read any Orlando Figes? I just started The Whisperers, and it looks promising.

  8. Doug,
    I haven’t heard of the project. It sounds very interesting. There’s a related Russian archive project around here (on religious life under communism) that I would love to work on.

  9. I think Brooks’ “On Paradise Drive,” which got substantially weaker reviews than “Bobos,” holds up much better (though parts of it are clearly dated now, having been written before the real estate bubble popped).

  10. I’ll do a post on it, Dr. Manhattan. I’m going to totally ignore all the shopping sections of Bobos and talk about the thought industry. I think it fits in well with all the academic bashing we’ve been doing. I want to hear what you liked about On Paradise Drive.

  11. Yes, the chapter in “Bobos” about the thought industry is probably the one which holds up the best now, even though it seemd out of place when the book was first published. FYI, the original version of that chapter, which was published in one of the very first issues of the Weekly Standard and focuses on Washington political-intellectual status-climbing culture – is much funnier than the one in the book. It doesn’t seem to be available on the Internet, but I have a printed copy somewhere that I may be able to forward to you.
    About “Paradise Drive,” more on it later. Did you read it yet?

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