William F. Buckley Jr. and His Back of the Book

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William F. Buckley Jr. at his favorite instrument, the harpsichord

William F. Buckley Jr. read National Review for 50-plus years. Of course, he wrote for it too. And had some role in administration. Anyway, we all have reading habits, when it comes to NR. When WFB was here, I always read his “Notes & Asides” first. I had a bias toward short (short items); I also had a bias toward WFB. WFB himself read the “back of the book” first. At least that was his habit in his later years.

We call our back of the book “Books, Arts & Manners,” or “BAM” (not to be confused with the Brooklyn Academy of Music). BAM is supported by the National Review Institute (NRI). NRI is supported by our friends, appreciators, and well-wishers. Daniel J. Mahoney has written about all this here. We are appealing for funds, as the clock ticks down to midnight on December 31.

WFB was devoted to culture, especially to high culture. He stuffed his magazine with music, poetry, art, language (meaning pieces about language), ballet, and so on. Even cooking.

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And of course books (meaning book reviews). WFB wrote more than 50 of them himself — not reviews, but books. One day, I heard WFB say to his wife, “I finished my book this morning.” He smiled and she smiled. For a second, I thought he meant some book he had been reading. But he meant the latest he had been writing.

Great as he was at “playing with words,” as he called it, his heart lay with music, I think. Lately, I have been thinking about Vikram Seth, because I’m watching a BBC television adaptation of A Suitable Boy, his great novel of 1993. In 1999, he published another novel, An Equal Music, which has an afterword — which begins, “Music is dearer to me than speech.” The same was true of WFB, I believe. There was a point, of course, at which music and speech became intertwined for him.

Anyway, all politics and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Books, Arts & Manners is important to us, and it may be important to you, too. Again, for Professor Mahoney’s appeal, go here. And to go straight to a donation page: here. Thank you so much.


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