I probably would have given it a shorter title, but here’s the full thing in its unabridged splendor: Athwart History: Half a Century of Polemics, Animadversions, and Illuminations: A William F. Buckley Jr. Omnibus. Before recording this week’s podcast with Linda Bridges–who is my NR colleague as well as editor of the book (along with Roger Kimball)–I had to practice saying “animadversions.” It was a word I had seen in print (it means “hostile criticism”) but never had actually spoken. And it is of course the kind of word the WFB would have deployed without thinking twice. Or needing to rehearse.
My favorite section of Athwart History prints a series of obituaries written by WFB. They summarize and eulogize lives, covering everyone from Richard Nixon and Princess Grace to Frank Meyer and John Dos Passos. In the hands of WFB, who knew so many people, they also become personal remembrances. The result is a series of essays that only WFB could have written. His account of visiting Russell Kirk in Mecosta, Mich. in 1954 is a treat: “The evening proceeded toward a pitch of such genial exuberance that, at nearly midnight, I was barely able to drive back to Piety Hill…”
One of my regrets with Between the Covers is that I never recorded a podcast with WFB, who was still living when the program started. But nobody can say we’ve neglected him since: We’ve featured Richard Brookhiser on his memoir about Bill, Lee Edwards on his biography about Bill, and now this.
Next week’s podcast: Justin Vaïsse on neoconservatism.