Another Another Book Review

One of the many constant and perpetual anxieties of an only child is that I always feel so lonely. The irony of this is that for the most part, I would rather spend time in my own company than in the companies of other babblers. Perhaps to generalize all the others as babblers is a bit of an exaggeration and a disrespect to all my friends with whom I share earnest common views and opinions on various matters. Thus, the feeling of being in a huge empty room full of echoing sound of my own voice but not a trace of physical existence of other than the one of mysel is well... half self-inflected and the other half somewhat psychological. This is in part due to my upbringing of having lived across oceans and in various cities of this country that we call the United States of America. (If you think this self-centered introduction has thus betrayed your expectation of a book review, please read on, there are connections and reasons for why I started babbling about myself first.)

To do another (another) book review is somewhat of a lazy attempt of mine to cover up the fact that I have not been visiting contemporary art venues lately. Then again, to be completely honest, I just haven't seen anything that struck me as "blog-worthy". So here I am putting you through yet another book review but this time I promise I will not end it with "more to come".

While spending this past weekend vacationing in Maryland at my Mum and Pup's, I discovered this book-Losing Mum and Pup: a memoir by Christopher Buckley. In fact, it was tucked under a pile of old newspapers, Sunday paper coupons and old Barney's catalogs that I instructed Mum not to chuck. Don't ask me why about the latter. My mother has always been an avid reader of books, magazines and various printed matter. The aforementioned are almost all in Chinese because I was born in Shanghai and where my mother spent most of her life time until the age of forty. Since English has become my primary language and her second, I have stopped looking to my mother for reading inspirations for nearly twenty years now. On the other hand, my mother is full of surprises, every once in awhile I can't help but be surprised by her selection of books in English that sit adust in the living room.

Image credit to come*1)
Being a graduate from an art school, politics is not my forte nor a subject of my highest interest (now I seem to fit right in with de Beauvoir's observation and criticism of the American younger generation and their relationship to politics in her book America Day by Day written in 1947, of which I also reviewed previously). Now to begin talking about this book by Christopher Buckley, it would be negligent to not slightly mention the political legacy of his father William F. Buckley Jr.. He was the host of Firing Line, a TV interview talk show and the founding editor of National Review. Though many perhaps classified his views as conservative, however Noam Chomsky begged to differ in this short TV segment. Like I mentioned earlier, politics isn't my forte and therefore departing from this brief and inadequate introduction, I would like to get on with my review of this book- Losing Mum and Pup by their son, Christopher Buckley.

His book aroused much personal interest was because it was written by another only-child. Christoper Buckley was the only son of William F. Buckley Jr. and Patricia Taylor Buckley whom was a stunning socialite with a sharp wit and sophisticated sense of fashion style. She hosted galas at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum for many many years. She had made the best dressed list in the New York Times numerous times.  Upon one of the occasions, the elder Buckley earnestly informed his son Christopher to make sure to make a big fuss when next time talking to Mum on the phone. As the young Buckley filially obeyed his father (one of rare instances, as S. Buckley later confessed to many other mischief and disobedience to his father in his book), after some casual acknowledgement of such fashion fame, Mrs. Buckley rather quickly diverted the subject to a bladder problem that one of their cats was suffering at the time.

What I liked about this book was the mix of humor and the heart-felt sadness of losing one's parents. Being an only child, I can certainly relate because you tend to have a "one-on-one" and more intimate relationship with both parents than say someone who has three or more siblings. The word humor probably should have been marked in bold, even though at times one (especially to those that know of their public legacy) would cringe at such candid recounts of the late buckleys' last few days on this plant earth by his only son. Then again, though at times in the book the private William F. Buckley contrasted his public appearance but also in other recounts were completely spot on if only one would allow him/herself to transplant the private incidents into real life situations. Without the understanding of their both larger than life personalities, the book probably wouldn't have been so funny or entertaining. The latter two adjectives would probably not ever be applied to a memoir commemorating dead parents, perhaps a few in existence but not many.

The book successfully humanized the two larger than life public figures, also in a way that touched my heart. It addressed the plain fact that after people are born, they live and then they die. One of the many parts that I particularly liked was when C. Buckley extracted various quotes from other famous thinkers and writers.  This, once written by Michel de Montaigne (someone I also admire and quoted in my previous posts)"I want death... to find me planting my cabbages,"(PP 182) referred to the time when C. Buckley had rented a condo in Florida in order for his father to convalece in an agreeable climate while still be able to write. To this, senior Buckley rebelled and demanded that he must be transported back to his home in Connecticut to spend his final days no matter that it was in the bitter weather of January.

Without giving away too much of this fantastic read on a melancholic and nostalgic subject, I must admit the most commendable aspect of my reading experience was provided by C. Buckley's witty sense of humor used to convey the most humbling truth of being human. Which is to say, no matter how gloriously or victoriously we play the heros of our own lives, one day we will all lose our marbles and succumb to mother nature.  Here, cheating a little bit, I will end on this short dialogue between father and son (PP 140-141):

"Let's put in your oxygen tube, okay?"

"What good would that do?"

"Well, it's oxygen, you know, and since you're having a hard time breathing-"

"I don't see what good it does."

... Now, get the book and read rest of the dialogue for yourself...

*image courtesy my iPhone camera: 1)book back cover 2) book front cover


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