Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

May 22, 2013

Another memoir to read this summer

Greensburg — Recently, I had recommended that you read Rod Dreher’s bestseller “The Little Way of Ruthie Leming”, but who could predict I would soon pick up a copy of Christopher Buckley’s “Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir”?

The two books are almost twins, which means I owe a few words in this space about the latter.

Never before had I reason to marvel at the complicated reportage of goodness. As Dreher had examined the wholesome life of his devout sister, though not without something of an edge and a lot of self-reflection as to what her life now meant, looking back, Buckley recounts the last years of his celebrity parents with a reflexive and at times exasperated air.

To be sure, Ruthie had been a small-town girl with modest ambition and only local renown, whereas Bill Buckley and his stunning wife Pat were feted by presidents, royalty, monsignors, and movie stars. Reading the two books back-to-back, from the smallest village in backwater Louisiana to the globe-trotting whirl of the rich-and-famous, can feel like being whipsawed.

In both instances, however, the writers have reason as survivors to pause and put into perspective the deaths that gave meaning to such lives and to display in gripping fashion what people think when somebody close to you dies. We rush about our days, then escape into the television or online, yet the death of a loved one arrests our minds and holds us – however briefly – so that we might look anew at our life’s trajectory.

Christopher Buckley ponders what it must mean to be a great man, given that he grew up in the shadow of one and had occasion to witness others up close. And the author struggles, as I most certainly did, with the inference that you will never measure up to your old man. But then Buckley stumbles onto what is a more relevant question for most of us: what does it mean to be a not a great man, but a good one?

Full disclosure: I had admired William F. Buckley, Jr., since high school. I always included him in my short pantheon of intellectual heroes, and I accumulated most of his books – which is a long, long shelf at my studio. Maybe it belongs to the sons of great men to pay attention in earnest to what it really means to have been great and (if they are sufficiently gifted for the task) to share what they have learned.

Both Dreher and Buckley (the son) are terrific writers, though I was taken as much by their disclosures of spiritually restless lives, less assured than their subjects about the one true faith, but maybe more attuned to the experience of being. There is something to be said for those who simply share what it’s like to live in the in-between, in the encounter.

Buckley tells plenty of rollicking good tales, capturing the spirit of his high-flying parents, as well as painful accounts of their failings and faltering. The book is something of an act of filial piety that happens to make you laugh out loud at times and choke with grief at others. I’m convinced that if you buy both of these for a relaxed weekend – and I’m convinced you will complete them that quickly — you will emerge Monday a more thoughtful person.

I would go one step further. You will be ennobled. Now, that word “ennobled” sounds awfully stuffy in our day and age, and some of you will scoff, but men have known since antiquity the power of great lives well told. I testify to such an experience after reading these books. It is almost that I was meant to encounter them together, now. Why is that?

 

1
Text Only
Columns
  • Why government openness matters Failing to share information makes us weaker. It enfeebles congressional oversight, which is a cornerstone of representative democracy and which, when aggressively carried out by fully informed legislators, can strengthen policy-making.One of the fun

    August 21, 2014

  • Ferguson is Everytown, U.S.A. The tragic killing of college-bound teenager Michael Brown has raised questions about the frequency with which police kill unarmed black men in America. The answer, unfortunately, is far too often.Just three months ago, on a warm April afternoon, a w

    August 21, 2014

  • Walking makes a comeback Just a few years ago, the idea that we could have a national conversation about walking might have seemed unlikely. After all, we’ve been walking forever. What’s there to talk about? As it turns out, plenty. As a number of groups cite a range of reas

    August 21, 2014

  • nei-gb082014-linda kennett column pic A collecting bonus? It's in the cards Remember the packs of sports trading cards from the 1970s and 80s? I recently stumbled across several boxes of them that I thought my son had taken when he bought his first home 15 years ago. But there they were, still in the closet and mixed among t

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • nei-gb082014-homemakers column file photo Summer has flown by It seems summer is nearly gone. The State Fair is over, the Power of the Past is gone for another year, and the children are back in school. It may be time to think about getting involved in making and donating some items for Riley Hospital. We alw

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pat Smith: Goofy golf raises breast cancer awareness Last week I stopped in to ask Susan Doerflinger Burkhart to please interpret a letter I received from an insurance company I had two or more years ago. As usual, she was able to ease my mind. While there she asked if I was going to play in the all-fe

    August 20, 2014

  • Craft brewers, vintners bring spirits to State Fair Brad Hawkins felt right at home hawking his beer at the Indiana State Fairgrounds last week.When Hawkins opened his Salt Creek Brewery in a converted filling station in tiny Needmore three years ago, some tee-totaling neighbors protested he was putti

    August 19, 2014

  • Back to the classroom These days, it seems like the summers are going by even faster than they did when I was a student! Just yesterday, the temperatures were beginning to warm up and children were hanging up their backpacks. Now, many of them are already back in the clas

    August 19, 2014

  • Our children and their children Let’s ponder “our children” and “their children.”First, Gov. Mike Pence made a wise call this past week when he ordered the Department of Child Services to begin reimbursing families who had adopted special needs children.A class action lawsuit filed

    August 19, 2014

  • Remember the joy Williams gave Ball State’s Wes Gehring, the author of dozens of books on Hollywood stars, says the apparent suicide of Robin Williams will not tarnish the comedian’s legendary achievements.Williams was found dead Monday in his California home. He was 63.“As the li

    August 16, 2014

Featured Ads
AP Video
US: We Do Not Pay Ransom to Terrorists Ferguson Teachers Training to Deal With Trauma Jon Hamm on the Unrest in Ferguson Tit for Tat? McDonald's Shuttered in Moscow Life on the Professional Video Game Circuit TX Gov Perry in Washington: 'Confident' in Case Hospital Releases Two Missionaries Who Had Ebola Ramen Health Risks: The Dark Side of the Noodle NYC Doctor-in-chief Seeks Community Approach Indonesian Police Fire Tear Gas at Protesters Raw: Shots Fired in Liberian Shantytown DOJ, Bank of America Reach Record Settlement Raw: Cubavision Airs Images of Fidel Castro Raw: Grief After Deadly Airstrikes in Gaza Officer Who Pointed Gun at Protesters Suspended Kathy Griffin Challenges Minaj to 'a Booty Off' Johnson: Six Arrests, No Tear Gas in Ferguson Raw: Rescue, Relief Efforts at Japan Landslide Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream California Drought Stings Honeybees, Beekeepers
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.