Hit & Run

The Pot and the Kettle

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On the subject of Bill Buckley's retirement, I couldn't help noticing this bit of angsty romantic hoohaw from a rival editor:

Not everyone shares this assessment of Mr. Buckley's work. Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic, called Mr. Buckley's sometimes baroque style "genially ridiculous."

Mr. Wieseltier added: "It is a kind of antimodern pretense, but of course he is in fact a completely modern man. His thinking and his writing have all the disadvantages of a happy man. The troubling thing about Bill Buckley's work is how singularly untroubled it is by things."

Now I'll admit to feeling a little fondness for Buckley as a figure, but it's true that his writing style can be amusingly mannered. (My favorite figure being when he throws an ellipsis into the middle of a sentence to let you know that his quill is stayed while he cogitates and percolates.) And I've made a successful lifelong habit of never trusting anybody who uses the word "athwart." Still, as a comment on the occasion of the old man's retirement, isn't this pretty gauche?

More to the point, who the hell is Wieseltier, who edits the most boring cultural page outside the old Pravda, who keeps dinosaurs like Jed Perl and Stanley Kaufman on the range, whose magazine is a laughingstock, and whose own essays read like five-page throat clearings (best read aloud, I've always found, in the fake "old man" voice Joseph Cotten uses for his nursing home scene in Citizen Kane), to be calling Buckley ridiculous?