Saturday, June 13, 2009

Review: Losing Mum and Pup

Talk about a chip off the verbal block..."Christo" Buckley's loving tale of the last days of his parents' lives could have been very maudlin and self-serving. It's not. It's a delightful, upbeat, celebration of his life with two fascinating, educated, acerbic, entertaining, and loving parents. While lovingly portrayed, the parents are shown with all their warts (is this where we get the expression "turning over in their graves"?) and all their virtues. Mum and Pup (whom he refers to as "WFB") died within 10 months of each other. The story of how an only child copes with both these lingering deaths while he lives several 100 miles away, is a true lesson in unselfishness. Having to plan memorial services for national personages who happened to be parents required the logistical aptitude of an Army quartermaster combined with a society maven, all the while holding personal grief at arms length. He commented that he felt at times like planning a wedding would have been easier. An aside: I think Christopher Buckley's wife Lucy, who is given occasional mention, probably deserves more credit than she receives for her husband's being able to get through these experiences. The book is not all funeral planning however. Buckley manages to weave in wonderful delightful vignettes of sailing across both the Atlantic and Pacific with his father, 'buying' lobsters from pots in Penobscot Bay Maine (up here we call it 'stealing') paying for them by leaving bottles of whiskey in the traps as he returned them to the water's depths. Stories of verbal sparring, drug battles, his mother's fashion sense, the son's agnosticism (remember Dad is arch conservative William F. Buckley Jr.- a pre-Vatican II catholic living in a post Vatican II world) and the ultimate discussions of funeral plans, are often uproariously funny. It did bring a smile to my face as the family was deciding what to place in the coffin with WFB. My family had that same discussion a couple years ago, and now we can all laugh about burying Dad with the TV remote. It seemed so much more at home in his hands than the rosary. This is a well-written memoir, well-narrated by the author himself, (I got an ARC audio from the publisher) and for anyone who has buried a parent or is facing it in the future, it is a big warm fuzzy read. Final comment....I would read this book again and again if for no other reason than the glorious use of the English language. He is his father's son. The words are a joy to anyone who values correct grammar paired with extravagant phraseology.

1 comment:

  1. I read a review of this in Time or Newsweek, and I'm glad to see that you enjoyed it as much as their reviewer did. Now I'm more likely to pick it up myself.


Welcome, thanks for stopping by. Now that you've heard our two cents, perhaps you have a few pennies to throw into the discussion. Due to a bunch more anonymous spam getting through, I've had to disallow anonymous comments. I try to respond to all comments posing a question, but may not always get to you right away.