Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Book: Miles Gone By

This is an autobiography of sorts by William F. Buckley. I consumed this as an audiobook and enjoyed hearing it read by WFB himself. What he has done essentially is string together a bunch of more-or-less-autobiographical bits written for other purposes and other places and put them in a sort of chronological and topical order.

There is a lot about sailing here, including descriptions of long (and not obviously very pleasant) voyages across the ocean and more clearly enjoyable sauntering around the Caribbean with friends. There is a bit about Blackford Oakes, the hero of WFB's spy novels (which I have yet to read) and about his column on language. There is some here on the history of National Review as well, which I found quite interesting. I think the thing that will stick with me longest, though, is his essay on what it is like to go around on the lecture circuit, which he did for many years as a way of raising money for National Review. His stories of sometimes clueless hosts and tiring audiences were great fun and somewhat familiar at times.

WFB also includes a reading of the transcript of his debate with Ronald Reagan about the Panama Canal. It is rather charming and quaint now to think about how much of an issue that was in the run-up to the 1980 presidential election. In the end, it was much ado about nothing, as such pressing political issues often turn out to be.