Like you, perhaps, I read the excerpt from Christopher Buckley’s new book: Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir. That excerpt was published in The New York Times Magazine, and you may find it here. Like most everything else Chris writes, it is dazzling: dazzlingly written. The apple didn’t fall very far from the tree.
There is only one thing wrong with the excerpt: Chris writes that the tenses in a particular paragraph are screwed up. They are not. That paragraph is perfect, like the excerpt at large.
I’ll tell you, my readers, what I told Chris: Reading the excerpt made me miss them all the more: made me miss Bill and Pat all the more, despite the awfulness.
Re awfulness: It may come as a shock to some readers to read this excerpt, and book, and come face to face with this awfulness. Perhaps, from the outside, you loved Bill and Pat. You were right to. And I, from the inside, loved them too — more than I can say, even with my powers of expression (if I may). There is nothing in this excerpt that surprised me in the least, because I saw it all: everything in it. Every failing. But I loved them anyway, as you would have, a lot.
There is a Robert Graves poem: “Despite and Still.” (Samuel Barber made a song of it, which is how I know it. That’s how I know just about any poem I know, frankly: through music.) You love despite and still. I know Chris does.
His parents, my beloved friends, were big, big people with big flaws. “Issues,” we might say in today’s parlance. You could feel the sting of those flaws, or issues. But, more than that, you felt the love and the warmth and the fun and the huge, huge humanity. I think of this couple regularly: not just Bill, as you would expect, but Pat, too.
She could be furious with me — furious with me like anything! — but then she would love me like anything. She could be at my throat, ready to slit it, one minute, and then the tenderest person the next. It is the love that remains, believe you me. All the rest simply washes away.
Holy Moses, do I miss them. I’d take them at their worst, right this second, just to sit down with them again.
One more point — or rather, one more point, and then a quick story. During the years I spent with Bill and Pat, I would think of Christopher, occasionally. I mainly got the fun: the fun and the love of Bill and Pat. And when they were being impossible, I could simply walk away: go home. They weren’t my parents. But they were Chris’s. And, as much as I loved them, I would sometimes think, “Damn, it couldn’t have been easy: could not have been easy to grow up in this household.” For one thing, you had to share your parents with about 8.5 million other people, constantly.
And the quick story? One time, I was kind of mad at Bill — can’t remember why. Doesn’t matter. But I was sure I disguised this from him entirely. And then when I next saw him, he leaned in and said, “You’re not mad at me, are you?” And I said, “No: mad about you.” He threw back his head and laughed, and on we went . . .
Oh, hang on — one final point, for now: There is no doubt — none — that Bill and Pat were very, very proud of Christopher and his accomplishments. Someone would send Bill an adulatory e-mail about Chris. Then Bill would forward it, far and wide — beaming through the computer. Etc.
In a column last week, I had a little item about environmentalist alarmism: the practice of scaring the bejesus out of children, particularly. This item attracted a lot of mail: most of which provided examples of green psychological warfare (for lack of a better, or pithier, phrase). I would like to publish just one letter — lightish. It goes,
I coach my eight-year-old daughter’s soccer team. [This is a mom writing -- a soccer-mom-coach.] Wednesday at practice, my daughter bent down and picked up a stick and started drawing out a play in the dirt for her teammates. With one voice, at least three of the girls howled, “What are you doing?! It’s Earth Day! You’re hurting the Earth!” Indoctrination works.
Don’t it ever — on many.
One more letter? A letter and a visual? A man wrote,
I made a “demotivator” poster for that idiotic “Earth Hour” event where the greenies told us to turn off our lights for an hour. As I work for [a state environmental agency], you can imagine the general reaction I got. Like I give a rat’s behind, as I have 30 years in the harness . . .
I just loved that letter — and the “demotivator” is even better: here. It shows the famous satellite image of the Korean peninsula at night, with the north all dark and the south all lit up. And the poster says: “Earth Hour: Guess which Korea is free and which is a Stalinist dictatorship. Guess which Korea eats and which one starves. Electricity is good. Choose freedom, and build more power plants.”
As long as there are still Americans like that about, you almost — almost — almost — have hope . . .
Was just proofreading this here column — yes, I do that once in a while — and I was reminded of something, when looking at the Liberty U item: One of my favorite WFB columns of all time was about what used to be known as the Campus Crusade for Christ. He was taking to task the disparagers of this enterprise. Wish I could find that column — must be in one of the early anthologies . . .
When I wrote, “more than I can say, even with my powers of expression (if I may)”? Sheer homage to WFB. Remember what he said about Carl Sagan? (I’ll paraphrase.) “He was so arrogant, as he testified before the Senate committee, he reminded me of — well, me.”
Why and when does President Obama say “Barack Hussein Obama”? (I’m thinking of my first item now, way up top.) Is only he allowed to say it, or is it free for others, too? What are the rules? Kind of confusing. Maybe Joe Klein or somebody can lay them out.