Feb 28, 2008

Buckley "Revisited"

I never had much use for his politics, but I do cherish my first introduction to late conservative icon William F. Buckley--as the host of the PBS airing of Brideshead Revisited back in the early 1980s. I confess I was too young at the time to fully appreciate the rich, complicated forces behind the Buckley-Waugh alliance, but even then, that book's odd mingling of homoeroticism, classism and tragic Anglo-Catholicism seemed to me to make it an unlikely pet novel for a Reagan-era rightist (or, come to think of it, for a conservative Jesuit). I grew to love the book rather in spite of those things--or perhaps it's better to say, by embracing those elements as part of what seemed to me even then a moving, magisterial vision of human impermanence, and of seeming divine indifference as a kind of sneaky grace.

But I won't soon shake the memory of this erudite, toad-like man with a comb-over and a clipboard, scrunched back uncomfortably on his chair, elongating his multisyllabic words through an impenetrable lockjaw, just before the opening credits rolled to the tune of that keening English-horn Brideshead theme. To me Buckley was as much a part of the miniseries' Anglophilic hothouse world as google-eyed Anthony Blanche.

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