Within a period of one year both Christopher Buckley's mother and father died. Patricia Taylor Buckley was a legendary socialite of classic beauty notorious for her cuttingly sharp wit. William F. Buckley, Jr. was the famous public intellectual, founder of the conservative magazine National Review, and host of the TV series Firing Line the "father" of the modern conservative movement. Losing Mum and Pupr, by the couple's only child, is a memoir the 54-year-old novelist and satirist Christopher Buckley had "pretty much resolved not to write". But write the book Buckley did, in just 40 days.
Buckley the author felt compelled to write the book: "I find myself, as the funereal dust settles and the flowers dry, wanting needing, perhaps more accurately to try to make sense of it and put the year to rest, as I did my parents." Buckley the narrator has the articulate, nuanced, and friendly voice of a popular professional writer at ease in front of the microphone and audiences large and small.
What really makes this book exceptional is the successful mix of the accounts of illnesses, deaths, and the sorrows of loss with the author's satirical signature: "[I]f at any point you hear a whimpering of oh, poor little me, just chuck this book right into the wastebasket or better yet, take it back and exchange it for a fresh paperback copy of Running with Scissors." And throughout, we are hearing the genuine Christopher Buckley: "My other hope is that the book will be, despite its not exactly upbeat subject matter, a celebration...of two extraordinary people, my Mum and Pup; and that it will be worthy of them, even if some parts of it would no doubt appall them."
The "appall them" qualifier is apt: what no doubt would appall his parents has turned off a number of readers and critics. Buckley publicly exposes his parent's flaws...and then some. The most extreme of these public exposures is Buckley's accounts of his ailing and failing father's habit of urinating in public places.
So how does the author succeed in honoring his parents even as he so publicly exposes their flaws? Well, Buckley's parents were exceptional, public individuals, and the events he describes flattering or not all coincided with deep and residing love. Thus, even as the author speaks of the "public outpouring and the tears of the people who loved them and mourn them and miss them", he adds, "none more than their son, even if at times I was tempted to pack them off to earlier graves".
Buckley successfully navigates the sensitive topics of his parents' flaws with his humorist ironic sensibilities and an intangible quality of his writing that, in his audio narration, takes on a palpable reality. David Chasey
As Buckley tells the story of their final year together, he takes listeners on a surprisingly entertaining tour through hospitals, funeral homes, and memorial services, capturing the heartbreaking and disorienting feeling of becoming a 55-year-old orphan. Buckley maintains his sense of humor by recalling the words of Oscar Wilde: "To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness."
Just as Calvin Trillin and Joan Didion gave readers solace and insight into the experience of losing a spouse, Christopher Buckley offers consolation, wit, and warmth to those coping with the death of a parent, while telling a unique personal story of life with legends.
©2009 Twelve; (P)2009 Hachette
Having lost both parents this year I was not sure how Mr Buckley's experience could possibly parallel mine. Not only was there a parallel but there were many, many experiences that were exactly like mine. I laughed, cried, took notes and told my friends. I am profoundly grateful to Christopher Buckley for sharing his most emotional, intimate thoughts and experiences about his Mom and Dad and for making my grieving a bit easier.
The New York Times review left me with the impression that this might be a bit snarky, not so much in a "Mommie Dearest" way but perhaps more as an uncomfortable intrusion into famous family private matters. It was anything but that. Christopher Buckley gives us a very thoughtful, heartfelt and self-deprecating account of how he went through the difficult times that we all must face as some point. It's a nice balance of the amusing and sad, including some wonderful family anecdotes. I don't think it takes anything away from the iconic Buckley family luster. Highly recommended!
I have never read any of Mr. Buckleys books. This one is so well written, endearing and perfectly narrated. I have added ALL his other books onto my Wish List.
Sounds like a cliche but you'll laugh, you'll cry...I loved that this was narrated by the author, I don't know if anyone else could have done it justice. Alternating the happenings of the losing of his parents with remembrances of their remarkable lives, he paints a picture of a uniquely American family.
As someone dealing with elderly parents myself, I was reluctant to read this book. And I have never been a William F. Buckley fan. But I thought his son Christopher was a talented writer and the book came highly recommended.
I am very glad I read this book. It is a brief account of the end of his parent's lives. And it seems to me to be written with honesty, humility and humor. His love for his parents is evident and the crazier they get, the more stressed out he becomes, the more his love and respect is obvious.
It is full of wickedly funny anecdotes, a great deal of sadness and, I think, equal parts of joy. Most importantly, while I do not know the subjects of the book or the author, beyond the caricatures one sees on TV, I think it was based on a great deal of truth. The description of planning his father's funeral and memorial service, all the conflicting personalities, booby traps and ticking time bombs that had to be overcome, made planning the D-Day invasion sound like a piece of cake.
This book is worth reading, whether you are at a point in your life where you identify with the situation, or you are not. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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Not familar with Mr. Buckley's other works or all that familar with his famous father (other than name). I found this to be an honest; and riviting account of a son loosing his parents. Rich or poor; young or old..some truths stand true for all - we have a life beginning and a life end.
Elequantly written with all the honesty of someone has lived the experience; and has put that experience to paper. Reguadless of his famous name - he lost mum and pup; and tells a poinant tale of the difficult journey of becoming an orphan at age 55.
Chris Buckley describes what it is like to grow up with famous, eccentric, and,yes, difficult parents. But he doesn't whine and he doesn't complain. Most importantly he doesn't blame. He simply tells the story of his Mum and Pup in their glory years and in their decline. It felt like an honest, loving story of his relationship with his parents and trials of losing them both over a short period of time. I loved this book. I could feel the emotion, but I could sense Buckly trying to be objective. It worked. Read it. You will like it.
I remember watching WFB on Firing Line in the 70s as an 8 or 9 year old. (Remember, in those days TV pickings were small and PBS was one of the four channels we had). I believe PBS had a lot to do with my two loves - politics and food - since I literally grew up with Julia and WFB. Julia explaining exotic ingredients that I longed to try and WFB - so self-assured and under-matched in every way with whoever debated him on any topic ... First of all, I knew little about WFB's private life but his son/author gives ua a wonderful view into his life. Like many men with extraordinary talents, drive and brilliance, WFB had ugly traits like narcissism and amazing ignorance when it came to family and others feelings in general. However, one has to remember that WFB grew up in a different time and place and did the best with who he was. What does stand out is that Christopher truly and deeply loved his mom and dad, warts and all. Christopher seems to be able to tell his story and communicate deep love and admiration for his father (and mother, although dad is clearly the star here) without allowing their sometimes seemingly cruel and unfeeling behavior seem to be told in a trashing or exploitave manner. (I still am reeling from learning about how Ingmar Bergman treated his children...) I was sorry to see this book end and Christopher's ability to write and communicate with so much love and loss had me weeping a few tears at the inevitable end. There are books I prefer to read vs. listen to - this is definitely one to listen to as it is read beautifully by the author. Get this - fascinating life that is fascinatingly told. I just know that WFB is looking down from heaven (or wherever we all end up in) with so much love and pride for his son. I will be looking to read the author's other books - Thank You For Smoking - you can hear and feel his humor in this book so I'll bet many of his books evokes many of the same feeilings.
Very good reading by the author. Interesting life of WFB and wife, also a little about the circles they moved in in NY. The funeral and memorial descriptions were fascinating. Imagine having memorial service in the Metropolitan art museum. Is it fair to a famous person to have someone document an account of final months and failings? Not sure, but I found the book engrossing.
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