Thursday, September 16, 2010

Book Review - Losing Mum and Pup

My dear friend, Merry, was shocked and dismayed to learn that I had not yet read Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir by Christopher Buckley.  She insisted on running straight to the bookstore to buy a copy for me, emphatically stating, “The Buckleys are THE preppy family!” 

What a delight!  The only child of conservative icon, William F. Buckley, Jr. and New York social doyenne, Pat Buckley, Christopher Buckley has written a beautiful memoir about the last days of his larger-than-life parents.  A parent’s death is a subject that has the potential to be awfully sad, not my preferred kind of read.  Instead, Buckley tells his story with his typical humor and irreverence, leaving me wanting more.

The back cover reads, “In twelve months between 2007 and 2008, Buckley coped with the passing of his dad, William F. Buckley, and his mother Patricia Taylor Buckley.  He was their only child and their relationship was close and complicated.  Writes Buckley: “They were not---with respect to every other set of loving, wonderful parents in the world---your typical mom and dad.”  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 dealing with the death of a parent—all while telling his unique, personal story of living with legends.”

Mrs. Buckley was a New York society doyenne for five decades.  I grew up reading my grandmother’s W magazines (still in newspaper format) and was therefore quite familiar with the images of the “chic and stunning Mrs. Buckley” that graced nearly every edition.  Upon reading the first pages of the book, I was surprised to find that she hailed from Vancouver, British Columbia.  The female Vancouver WASP is a rare breed.  They are known for their practicality and endlessly quotable declarative statements.  Readers will be delighted to discover the depth of this ‘staunch character’ and perhaps find themselves repeating her pithy dictums.

Prolific author, newspaper columnist, television host, mayoral candidate, and founder of National Review, William F. Buckley, Jr. was the voice of the conservative movement in the United States for half a century.  His myriad professional accomplishments boggle the mind.  This powerhouse of a man was also an avid sailor, a gifted linguist and musician, and a devoted Roman Catholic.  He was also very human.  His son openly relates both funny and heart-wrenching episodes of the family’s contentious relationships with one another.  Men like “WFB” don’t come along often enough.

But what made the Buckleys so preppy? 

Background certainly.  Mr. Buckley hailed from a large Roman Catholic family whose oil money was made by his father.  His young years were spent living in Mexico, France, and England.  The family later moved to Sharon, Connecticut which he considered to be his home.  Mrs. Buckley was the debutante daughter of a self-made Vancouver industrialist.  She was provided with the proper education for a young Vancouver lady.  Mr. and Mrs. Buckley met while he was attending Yale; she was his sister’s roommate at Vassar.

Certainly they epitomized preppy values such as conservatism, consistency, and noblesse oblige.  But what confirms their entry in the Prep Pantheon is perhaps the most important value of all prepdom---privacy.  As Christopher Buckley so aptly states, “For public people, they could be rather private.”

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely loved this book! I could not put it down, I was somewhat aware of William F. Bucklely prior to reading it but have grown to love him even more after reading christopher's touching story, its a must read for all preps.