The Corner

Oh, Cripe

So, I’m reading this post by the formidable and valuable Anne Applebaum — and I encounter, “. . . the magazine,” meaning NR, “was founded by an old-style elitist, William F. Buckley . . .”

Oh, cripe. This is so wearying. And it will only get worse in coming years, as people make Bill whatever they want him to be. He was practically born kicking against the establishment. What was his first book? God and Man at Yale. Not a valentine to Yale or the Ivy League.

What was his most famous quip? That he would rather by governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than by the Harvard faculty. Those are not the words of an “old-style elitist”: if old-style elitism means anything at all.

Tied for most famous quip? “Demand a recount.” When asked what he would first do, if elected mayor of New York, he said, “Demand a recount.” That and the Boston-phonebook thing were repeated to him, over and over.

He referred to one or the other — I believe the Boston quip, but maybe both — as “my C-sharp-minor Prelude.” What did he mean? Well, Rachmaninoff wrote a lot of things: but the public really, really loved his Prelude in C-sharp minor. Everyone played it at home, in the parlor. And when Rachmaninoff gave a recital, the audience expected, and demanded, to hear it: If it was not on the program, it had to be an encore. And Rachmaninoff grew tired of it.

As Bill grew tired of hearing about his Greatest Hits. (I’m not sure he was really and truly tired.) “My C-sharp-minor Prelude,” he’d sigh.

Anyway, Bill was big, really, really big, as we know. He was a lot of things. He contained multitudes. Yadda yadda yadda. But I can tell you this: He had a very, very democratic spirit, and a Christian universalist spirit. He loved fine things, of course. (Amen to that.) But I knew him fairly intimately, and if he was an “old-style elitist,” then I guess I have an extremely poor understanding of old-style elitism. I doubt it, though.

It was inevitable — it was written in stone — that people would say goofy things about Bill after he died: particularly when trying to score points against NR. We expected it, but it’s still kind of hard to endure. And, as I said, it will get worse, as Bill-in-the-flesh grows more distant.

I wish Anne Applebaum would not participate! And let me close this lil’ post by saying how grateful I am for her book on the Gulag, a masterpiece. I will also say this: Some months ago, I referred to Charles Kesler and Sally Pipes, who were guest speakers on an NR cruise, as “possibly the smartest couple since Pierre and Marie Curie.” Anne ’n’ Radek are right up there.

Just one more thing: You want to know what Bill thought, how he was? He wrote a few books and columns, taped a few television shows. Dig right in!


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