Friday, June 26, 2009

Losing Mum and Pup by Christopher Buckley

Christopher Buckley's lovely tribute to his mom, Patricia Buckley, and infamous father, William F. Buckley, Jr., Losing Mum and Pup, is the only book, other than Moby Dick (the original) that I've read with a dictionary in my lap (actually Wikipedia up and frequented).

A short list of phrases and words that I circled in pencil to further investigate include: droit du seigneur, paradigmatically, perfervid orison, intransigence, apparatchik, exigent, diktaks, adipose, adduce a tropism; and that's just about three-pages-worth!

It's not that I haven't heard or seen these words, it is just that Christopher Buckley throws them around like slang, and I loved it. I loved it because for the too short period of reading this book, I felt transported to another world - a world of the intelligentsia - and indeed, which wasn't as important to me, a world of uniquely east coast heritage, entitlement, wealth and privilege, that is as alien to this little west Texas gal as Martians.

Another thing that I loved about reading this book was that it again reminded me that humanity isn't about politics, it is about people. Christopher Buckley's dad, William F. Buckley, Jr. was a bit of an enigma. He was a "commie-hating " conservative icon who founded the political magazine National Review, and hosted the TV show Firing Line for 30 years, but his closest friend was Henry Kissinger, and he had an endearing and brilliant sense of humor. His life was riddled with such social and political inconsistencies, indicating to me at least, that his compass was set not by populist movements or political policy, but rather thoughtful independence, and although we conflict on plenty, I like that about him, and it made for fun reading.

Another thing that I loved about this book was the humor with which Christopher Buckley offers his memories. He so obviously loved his parents, but I found myself laughing and my heart melting at the same time. Losing Mum and Pup is chocked full of fun and funny stories, many involving the glitterati of the times, which is gossipy fun. And the man can certainly turn a phrase. Check out this excerpt:

The key to eulogist wrangling ... is Draconian enforcement of the time limit! This may seem an obvious point, but you've probably attended one or two funerals and memorial services where the fine-hammered steel of woe was turned to Brillo by incontinent eulogists ..... They will prattle on ... causing those in attendance to forget all about the deceased and start praying that a dislodged gargoyle will fall from above and smite the speaker.

Christopher informed the eulogists at his father's funeral that he had snipers positioned, with orders to shoot to kill anyone who goes over four minutes.

Of course there a more deeply seeded reason why I love reading books with big words and big lives. When I was little, and living in a very small town (pop. 1,500) smack in the most isolated area of west Texas, one of my best friends' family did something I'd never been exposed to before. They had intelligent, politically charged conversations at the dinner table. My family was very quiet at the dinner table, but the Wright's dinners were downright volatile - yelling, hands slapping on the table, arms flung about, at least one of their four kids storming from the room, and I remember hearing Buckley's name tossed about, and the John Birch Society, and communism, and although I didn't know what they were yelling about exactly, I was entranced by the debates and intrigued by this world beyond the borders of our little community that they seemed to know all about, and about which I knew almost nothing.

Ironically, or perhaps not, many of my best west Texas gal-friends grew up to be readers and writers, and like the starved who become the obese, we're all still feeding a hunger for knowledge and information that was beyond our reach out there.

Read, or should I say, devour Losing Mum and Pup. It is delicious.

Have a wonderful weekend and good luck on staying cool!



  1. You did this one justice, for sure. Entrancing book about a world foreign to West Texans - and, yes - delicious. Sometimes I wonder if father (or son) actually knew these words or just wanted to impress us. If so, they sure succeeded, huh? Keep reading - and writing. (I hope you include me in your list of "gal" friends even though I am a senior type of gal.)

    Best, Charlena

  2. Thanks Charlena - and yes, you are certainly one of my favorite gal-friends!