October 4, 2013

"In my mid-adolescence... I became obsessed with William F. Buckley."

"This makes more sense when you realize that we were living in Bible Belt farming country miles from civilization," said Malcolm Gladwell.
Buckley seemed impossibly exotic. We used to go into Toronto and prowl the used-book stores on Queen Street looking for rare first editions of “The Unmaking of a Mayor” and “God and Man at Yale.” To this day I know all the great Buckley lines. Upon coming to Canada for a speech, for example, he is asked at the border for the purpose of his visit:
Buckley: “I have come to rid Canada of the scourge of socialism.”

Guard: “How long do you intend to stay?”

Buckley: “24 hours.”
In southern Ontario farming country when I was growing up, we considered that kind of thing deeply hilarious.
Gladwell is doing an interview in the NYT, and the question was "Who was your literary hero [when you were young]?" I take it he told the truth when he said William F. Buckley, and then, thinking of the NYT reader, he quickly acknowledged how hard that would be to understand and went into that you-have-to-understand-this-was-Canada riff.

33 comments:

Mark O said...

So now Gladwell's Gore Vidal?

Buckley was incomparable.

Richard Dolan said...

" ... thinking of the NYT reader ..."

It's a class that also includes Ann (and maybe Meade too). So maybe he was thinking about several subgroups -- the UWS lefties, whom I think you were referring to; and then the merely curious NYT readers, who might find WFB's archness an odd fit for a writer like Gladwell.

Carol said...

I felt the same way as Gladwell back in the 60s, in the early days of Firing Line. Raised by a liberal parent, I was almost frightened of conservatives, and highly literate ones were disturbing because they were supposed to be a bunch of ignorant rubes. And I wondered what it said about me if I sorta agreed with them.

Back then I knew a handful of young conservatives, but I think it's usually a leap that happens with age.

Carol said...

Stop me if I repeat myself, but did anyone else see a controntation between Buckley and some young leftie, I think it was in Canada, where she protested our sending a fleet somewhere or other, when we should oughta be sending "peace ships."

It sounded like "pee ships" and Buckely fluttered his eyes, did a take and said..."uh, send what - ?"

fivewheels said...

Literary hero? Mine was probably Heinlein, but WFB was a strong influence around the time I hit junior high. All the Latin phrases were a little off-putting, but otherwise it was a good fit for my head. But you have to understand this was 1970s Detroit.

Carol said...

God and Man at Yale is a good read, still.

The Godfather said...

It was Goldwater who made me a conservative (lefties snicker, but it's true) at 17, and that led someone to give me a subscription to National Review. The wit that Buckley displayed was very appealing to a young preppie, but so were the serious discussions by various writers from different conservative perspectives..

Later, when I was in college, Buckley came to a nearby campus to speak, and I went to hear him. His prepared remarks were taken almost verbatim from something he'd just written for Playboy (really!), which I'd read, so I wasn't very impressed, but afterwards he took questions, and extemporaneously he used all those 5 buck words that he was famous for, plus he lit his little cigarette-sized cigar with a matchbook one-handed. That was cool!

I bet there were people in that hall who converted to Catholicism that night.

pst314 said...

"24 hours."

"Only 24 hours?? I was expecting William F. Buckley, not General Belisarius!"

Carl said...

...and then, thinking of the NYT reader, he quickly acknowledged how hard that would be to understand...

I'm reminded of reading an editorial in The Daily Californian, the student newspaper at Berkeley. It was the 80s, and apartheid was all the on-campus rage among the 30-second-attention-span set, which includes a lot of people when you're in your 20s and full of raging hormones.

Anyway, this student journalist lamented that he could not write anything at all unless he took care to make it all about how evil apartheid was, and the struggle to rid the world of its scourge the Manichaen truth of the era. He solved his problem (in this editorial) by ending every sentence with "...and apartheid is evil." As in, "Yesterday I went to the laundromat and apartheid is evil, and afterward I wanted some coffee so (apartheid being evil) I went to the coffee shop..."

That's probably how it is appearing in the Times, or any of the modern lefty Church's organs: you must be sure to hit all the right touchstones and shibboleths, kind of like a medieval monk ending every paragraph with Deo gratias.

The funny thing is these people congratulate themselves on their open minds -- when in truth theirs are the most narrow-minded, conservative, doctrinaire viewpoints there are, absolutely terrified of change and hysterically reactive to challenge or heresy.

Marshal said...

He solved his problem (in this editorial) by ending every sentence with "...and apartheid is evil.

An old tradition rediscovered.

Carthago delenda est

Austin said...

I too am a fan of Buckley. In fact, many years ago I organized an adult flag football team and wrote to Buckley asking if the National Review would be interested in sponsoring the team. Despite the fact that I advised him the name of the team was "The Fighting Sesquipedalians" he did not reply. I was disappointed.

David said...

Buckley was funny, even (sometimes) in the opinion of his opponents.

Who in public life these days is genuinely funny intentionally, in an enjoyable way?

I'd say Rush Limbaugh, who can be pretty funny to those who do not think he is a demon, but his humor really does not work for the other side of the aisle.

Franken? He wasn't funny when he was doing actual comedy, not inadvertent comedy.

Obama? Clinton? Harry Reid? Pelosi? Schumer? Jerry Brown? Are there any funny lefties at all?

Rachel Maddow? I'd say "that's not funny" but it would be homophobic or something.

Bobby Jindal? Cruz? Hannity? Boherner? Mitch McConnell? Jeb Bush? Christie? (Christie is, just a little bit.)

Brett Hulme, Larry Summers, Greta (she has a sense of humor but she's not funny herself), Dr. Jill Biden, Bill O'Reilly.

We have some funny satirists nowadays, but the ones who take themselves seriously do not seem to be able to be funny at all.

Oh, Bill Clinton? I bet he can be funny. "Stop it, Bill, you're tickling me. Stop I say. You are too funny. (And don't worry, I'll never tell Hillary.)"

virgil xenophon said...

@Marshall/

During the Bear Bryant era and when Bill Battle was head coach at the Univ of Tennessee, the AD at UT was famous for saying "Carthage must be destroyed" every time the subject of the Univ of Alabama came up, lol.

virgil xenophon said...

@David/

Dennis Miller and Adam Carolla come immediately to mind as effective conservative comedians working at it full-time..

El Pollo Raylan said...

Who in public life these days is genuinely funny intentionally, in an enjoyable way?

Sarah Palin can toss zingers.

Inga said...

"....I became obsessed with William F.Buckley."

So did NotQuiteunBuckley.

El Pollo Raylan said...

I used to enjoy using my "WFB voice" to memorialize certain Althouse commenters. These were not mean spirited. The first voiced an actual comment by Simon (because of his fondness for Latin): link

I soon realized that the Buckley voice "belonged" to Ritmo as this one typified: link

There are several more.

El Pollo Raylan said...

Sorry, this was the very first one (and probably the best impression too)

Carol said...

Franken? He wasn't funny when he was doing actual comedy,

Huh. I thought Stuart Smalley was funny. Not haha funny but illustrative of the liberal weenie mindset kind of funny.

Mark Trade said...

Buckley came up in my reading recently when I genuinely wondered, why isn't Israel a state? With Obama talking about the unshakable connection between our two countries, each party fighting the other over how much they love Israel, and Israel wanting our protection as if they were one of the states. Really, who would it hurt?

Anyway it turns out Buckley argued for precisely that in <a href="http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2199&dat=19720727&id=ZAoyAAAAIBAJ&sjid=jOcFAAAAIBAJ&pg=7023,3378593>this newspaper article from 1972</a>.

One would think the reason it wasn't pursued back then was because the general public didn't want to be dragged into another war, but that's not the sentiment now, even though we are war-weary. Curiously, it seems the reason it's not being pursued now is because Israeli citizens have too much national pride. But that seems to be eroding. Pride in that country seems to come more from culture and religion than it does state affiliation.

We've been talking about a "Palestinian State" for over a decade now without results. It's a nonstarter. Time to talk about an "American State." Why not?

tim maguire said...

The reason there are no funny politicians is that they operate in a milieu where their opponents are always on the lookout for gotcha moments and are entirely comfortable misrepresenting their words and intentions.

Word has it Bob Dole was quite the wit off camera, but you'd never know it on camera.

This Gladwell passage bugs me as an example of the constant need for liberals to affirm their liberal bonafides. He can't just say something nice about Buckley, he has to qualify it, lest anyone think "oh my goodness! Is he a conservative too? I must burn all his books right away!"

And in so doing, he casually trashes his family, his community, his childhood friends who have done him no wrong but merely stand between him and the ever-present danger of having the gates of liberal acceptance closed against him.

Moneyrunner said...

Tim: A great insight: "And in so doing, he casually trashes his family, his community, his childhood friends who have done him no wrong but merely stand between him and the ever-present danger of having the gates of liberal acceptance closed against him."

Let’s admit it. The members of the press have “outgrown” the people. The formerly ink stained wretches have joined the ruling class and are reaping the reward. Have you seen the salaries and perks these people get for doing an hour show on TV or writing a column for a major newspaper? Have you seen how and where they live? They have grabbed the brass ring and now they desperately want to make sure they don't let go. If they came from small-town America they now laugh at the rubes, call them Joe-six-pack who lives in flyover country. As for the members-in-waiting in the hinterlands; they know what is expected of them if they want to try out for the big leagues.



Obi-wan Kenobe had it wrong when he said “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy” referring to the Mos Eisley Spaceport. It was clear that he had not read the NY Times or viewed the MSM from the perspective of average Americans.

setnaffa said...

Sad that Gladwell has so much hatred of himself, his family, and the place he was raised.

miriam said...

i can't share his high opinion of Michael Lewis. I think he's superficial and phony. But so is Malcolm Gladwell, when you get down to it.

miriam said...

i can't share his high opinion of Michael Lewis. I think he's superficial and phony. But so is Malcolm Gladwell, when you get down to it.

HenryB said...

And here I was always taught that the Bible Belt consisted of stupid redneck (U.S.) southerners. Here, Gladwell expands the definition to, at a minimum, southern Ontario.

So, there are redneck Canucks, eh?

Muggins said...

Ever notice that there are no Firing Line repeats aired in media? Not even a segment. I would say that Firing Line was Buckley's most effective way to get the conservative word out, and it's silenced.

TheThinMan said...

"This makes more sense when you realize that we were living in Bible Belt farming country miles from civilization"

So, if you make your living in agriculture and you also read the Bible, then you're not part of civilization? That sentence was not supposed to be the shocking one that needed explication, that was supposed to BE the explanation!

Birches said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Birches said...

I can't badmouth Michael Lewis. Though he is against everything the Tuohy's love and represent, he tells The Blind Side straight , without disparaging them at all.

I actually enjoy all of Michael Lewis's books and find he can separate himself from his Coastal Elite Viewpoint long enough to tell an unbiased story. Although I laughed a lot reading Boomerang. He mentioned the TEA Party a couple of times in a context that made no sense to me. I finally realized he had no idea what the Tea Party was actually about.

It's funny he and Sean Tuohy were childhood friends. Michael Lewis attended the prestigious prep school as a regular enrollee (must come from money). Sean Tuohy attended by virtue of his father being the basketball coach --- they were poor. Yet both have become highly successful individuals, though political polar opposites. To me, I'd put my trust in the political leanings of the man who knows what it means to be poor as opposed to the one who just thinks he knows how to help.

Erik said...

I don't know if this Malcolm Gladwell answer might be illustrative of all the lefties who want Republicans to shut up, get into the back of the bus, and let Obama take over:

NYT: If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

MG: The new Lee Child, of course! It might be nice for him to escape for a few hours to a world where one man can solve every one of the world’s problems with nothing but his wits and his fists.

Tim said...

WFB made a conservative out of my wife. Back in the 80s and 90s we used to get to watch him on talking head TV, and the way he destroyed the liberals, which my wife described as "smooth", and made simple sense of conservative concepts, did more than I ever did to make a conservative out of her.

Tim said...

WFB made a conservative out of my wife. Back in the 80s and 90s we used to get to watch him on talking head TV, and the way he destroyed the liberals, which my wife described as "smooth", and made simple sense of conservative concepts, did more than I ever did to make a conservative out of her.