Sunday, September 22, 2002

There are three famous names who tend to stop me in my tracks: Gore Vidal, William F. Buckley, and Vladimir Nabokov. With the possible exception of the last, I haven't read everything they've written, but I've read a fair amount, and I tend to be a sucker for anything written about them, or any printed incident in which they play a role. They tend to bring out the best in people who write about them, I guess because they are all born performers.

I've just discovered John Gregory Dunne's wonderfully bitchy 1983 assessment of Buckley in the New York Review of Books and it's the perfect read. Buckley's world is one "of surfaces, placid and civilized. The effect is at first glinting and funny, but Mr. Buckley's vision is so hermetically focused on himself that one begins to wonder if under that coat of thin veneer there is anything but another coat of thin veneer."

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