Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

The Basics:
About Emdashes | Email us

Before it moved to The New Yorker:
Ask the Librarians

Best of Emdashes: Hit Parade
A Web Comic: The Wavy Rule


William F. Buckley, 1925-2008

Filed under: In Memoriam   Tagged: , , , ,

Martin Schneider writes:

When I pondered William Buckley with reference to The New Yorker, my first thought was that someone so conservative must surely have scorned such a bastion of liberal sentiment. The Complete New Yorker archive shows such a supposition to be hostage to more recent Rove-ian (and not just Rove-ian) categories of political discourse. Buckley was a creature of a no less heated but perhaps a less doctrinaire age; his byline appeared in The New Yorker no fewer than 11 times.

His work for The New Yorker fell into two broad categories: articles about sailing and journal-like accounts of his daily lot. As Buckley in National Review possessed a vessel for his own political opinions, it likely never occurred to him to rail against the welfare state in the pages of The New Yorker.

I confess that to me, Buckley was a figure out of Doonesbury cartoons and Woody Allen movies from the 1970s. I don’t remember Firing Line. I have caught him on old episodes of The Dick Cavett Show, and I can tell that he must have been a delicious object of abhorrence for the East Coast liberals of the day. Next to Rove he looks positively benign; judging from his views on Iraq he was closer to the Upper West Side liberal of today than either side of that dyad ever would have imagined.

Buckley’s first contribution, a two-parter from 1971 billed in the Complete New Yorker as an account of his “activities in November,” looks especially interesting. Go check it out.

Update: On his blog, Hendrik Hertzberg posts this fond reminiscence of his encounter with the preeminent conservative. Elsewhere on the site, Ben Greenman directs us to a YouTube clip of Buckley and Gore Vidal being nasty to one another (these clips of Buckley debating Noam Chomsky are almost as compelling).


If you ever have a chance to watch some of the Firing Line shows, don’t miss the one with Buckley and Allen Ginsberg (with Allen singing some Blake songs). The look on Buckley’s face! I remember one piece he wrote for the New Yorker: he gave his maid a ride home from church, and it annoyed him that she had to thank him. I often wondered why it annoyed him, so much so that he wrote it into the piece, and why he couldn’t say, simply, your welcome. But he was so entertaining in all of his interviews, and informative. It’s sad his passing; we don’t learn from today’s conservative arguments like we learned from Bill’s.

I hate to speak ill of the dead, so I won’t!

Isn’t it amazing how the people we liberals (I proudly call myself one) hated now seem sane and at times sensible next to the rabid hostility of the current right wing?

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, it may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Thanks for waiting.)

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree