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Thursday, 28 February 2008

Boy Leaves Yale, Man Meets God

William F. Buckley Jr. who has recently died, was, according to some sources, variously: a CIA agent, Catholic, Yale Man, rightwing TV firebrand, homophobe, baronially arrogant, and one of the 20th century's most brilliant debaters. Only the last need detain us here. I share few of Buckley's vices, or virtues perhaps, and less of his ideology, but I have often felt that debaters, however otherwise turned rightwards, make the best companions (for dinner, if not bed). When I was a college debater of some repute (I often debated at places called Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Vassar, McGill, etc) Buckley was a hero, for his patrician indifference to low-brows and mass culture (though he practically invented High-IQ US TV discourse). My father (alas, dead) and I loved to watch him lean back in his chair, impossibly, an architect of disdain, a Pisa of scorn, his pen or pencil in his poised hand - about to strike, viperous. I met the gentleman once, all those teeth in that slithering smile!, after a Firing Line taping live from McGill in Montreal; at the cocktail reception, we briefly discussed poetry.
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