The Corner

Culture

Down with Dullness

William F. Buckley Jr.

On the homepage today, we have a little symposium about WFB, recording some memories and opinions. My contribution is mainly personal, and I talk about words and phrases — words and phrases from WFB, which pop into my mind, daily.

Over the weekend, I was covering a concert in Carnegie Hall (the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Gustavo Dudamel). A phrase popped into my mind: “insuperably dull.” How did it get there (apart from the playing)? Well, WFB put it there. Years ago, in conversation with me, he described a particular book as “insuperably dull.”

And that’s dull, baby.

Anyway, I note this in my contribution to the symposium. After I wrote that little contribution, I Googled the phrase (“insuperably dull”). I found that I had used it twice, in music criticism: once in 2007 and then as recently as 2015.

I should pay royalties to some Buckley fund, as much as I borrow from him and adapt him. But then, if we all did that, that fund would be filled to overflowing.

P.S. The last thing WFB was, was dull. In fact, I think he despised, and even feared, dullness more than anything else. He has this in common with Lorin Maazel, the late conductor. In an interview with me, Maazel once described avant-garde opera productions — “Euro-dreck,” he said — as “dull.” I wish you could have heard the way he said dull: with a dismissive contempt that is etched into my brain.

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