This is Christopher Buckley's book written in 2009 shortly after the death of both of his parents, Patricia and William F. Buckley, Jr. I can't fault the kid for writing this book. He's an only child and it would have been one of those things where if he hadn't done it, the criticisms such as "and you call yourself a writer" would have been so loudly unspoken that he would have heard them in his sleep. And, yet, I wish he hadn't written this. I wish it more for him than anyone else because the book says so much more about him than it does about his famous parents. And what it says is ugly and mean and he's going to regret having written it as he gets older; he'll regret it as much as some folks are going to regret revealing intimate details of their lives and their family's lives which they casually lay out on the internet on a regular basis without seeming to understanding all the possible future ramifications. My advice would be to think of talking about intimate details of your life in any permanent format in the same way you would think about discussing intimate details of close relatives if they were dead. When you go back and read that stuff later, that version of you is going to be dead, so it's really not an awful metaphor.
Sure, you might harbor enough hatred for your old man or disgust at your mom to pen page after page describing the harmful consequences either/or had on your development. But how are you going to feel about having done so when you're ten years older and go back and read those words again? You might choose to have the words deleted from the page on which you're reading them. However, you might also find that Aunt Sally found and saved a copy of those words and is sharing them on other sites with your name attached to them.
There's some old adage about not speaking unkindly about the dead. I think the basis of that is that we're all human and we're probably all doing the best we can do under the circumstances in which we find ourselves. There is no doubt that they'll fuck you up, your mum and dad. However, how much lasting effect that has on you is pretty much up to you. I think the word "generosity" is the best way to describe how you should discuss the dead. Try giving them the benefit of the doubt and you might find yourself in a much better position to forgive them before it's too late. You're going to have to do it sooner or later if you want to find any sort of real peace in your life.
Admittedly, when your parents are famous it must be a lot harder on you. It sure makes it easier to name-drop when you pen their tales on them, and this kid is no slouch in the name-dropping game. In this book, he seems to be trying to play the "some of my best friends are flaming liberals" by a seemingly continuous dropping of names such as Al Gore or John Kerry and going out of his way to portray them as saints.
I'm sure it was extremely hard on him to lose his mom and then watch his dad decline and die soon afterwards. But there are things which he could have left out which would not have hurt his story at all. For instance, as someone who is getting to a stage where I have trouble making my fingers type exactly what my mind wills them to, sharing verbatim emails that his dad sent him toward the end is just beyond the pale. How I wish I'd never seen the actual evidence of the torture which such a brilliant mind must have had to suffer in order to try and do the one thing which brought him so much joy; create the written word. There was no sense in sharing these private emails and I'll never forgive him for it.
The other thing he does which is unforgivable is create the impression of both his parents as drunks and his mom as a manipulative bitch. They were married for 57 years which represents the entirety of the son's current life. I've heard the story of the Buckley marriage from other more objective points of view, and I did not get the impression the son leaves here on several fronts. He paints both his parents as likely high-functioning alcoholics. He never uses that word, but he mentions their worst character flaws as probable consequences of being in their cups way too soon in the day and for way too many days. It's the little details that he leaves out that make it so damning. In terms of his mom, he starts dinner stories with several guests at their home as ending when his mother gets going on one of her rants, usually aimed at some individual in the room or very close by. Then he never actually repeats any of the things she is supposed to have said. He implies that several evenings were ruined by this phenomenon and that his mom hurt a lot of folks. This, in my mind, makes it all sound like hysterical gossip from a desperate housewife with him being the housewife. He shares more concrete details about his dad's shortcomings, and they seem to primarily involve supposed attempts to kill the entire family while driving either a car or a sailboat after too many libations. I can forgive these stories about his dad because I can imagine WFB laughing them off as at least partly true and not getting too offended. However, the stories about his mom are way too much information and I think he should offer some third-party confirmation to at least some of them.
Chris talks a lot about his dad's Catholicism, but never in the brutal terms someone such as myself would have talked about it. I would have preferred to do it to WFB's face; however, even though I know he would have torn me a new one using words whose meanings I did not understand. Neither of us would have changed the other's mind, but I have always been interested in the inner working of those who vote the same way I do but would regard me as a heathen for being a non-believer. As for Chris, it's hard to say if he shares the religiosity of his father or not, but he does go out of his way to plumb the depths of his dad's love affair with the Catholic Church. I could do some research and find out whether or not Christopher Buckley is a Catholic or not. I could find out all the other books he's written and I could discover his political views. But I don't care to do so. I don' t like the kid after having read this book, and I wouldn't care to read anything else he's written. I do know he endorsed and voted for Obama, and that doesn't surprise me at all after seeing how he goes out of his way in this book to suck up to the liberal elites and the mainstream media.
But back to the marriage of religion with the Republican Party. This is the one thing which really sticks in the craw of someone such as myself. I find myself in the position of praying for more voters while not believing in the power of prayer. I guess when you only have two viable political parties in a country as large as the USA, there are bound to be several instances of strange bedfellows, but you have to look pretty hard to find a pundit who shares my POV on this dichotomy. My favorite is an Englishman turned American named John Derbyshire. He works for the online version of the original conservative magazine founded by WFB, National Review. Derbyshire has a wicked sense of humor, and if you ever cared to read or listen to someone who shares almost precisely my political views, try starting here.
Of course, where I live the Catholic Church is not as prominent as it is in the liberal Northeast of the US. And even though the Catholic vote in the US is largely Democrat, there are plenty of Catholics in the higher echelons of the Conservative movement. Look at the current members of the Supreme Court if you don't believe it.
So my recommendation is to read the original works of William F. Buckley and don't waste time on this memoir by the only son. If his dad is correct on the religion question and the son does meet him again in the Great Hereafter, WFB is going to have a very long and very stern talk with his boy about this disaster of a book. And his dad can talk. Forever.