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Here is a unique collection of fifty years of essays chosen to form an unconventional autobiography and capstone to his remarkable career as the conservative writer par excellence. Included are essays that capture Buckley's joyful boyhood and family life; his years as a conservative firebrand at Yale; the life of a young army officer; his love of wine and sailing; memories Here is a unique collection of fifty years of essays chosen to form an unconventional autobiography and capstone to his remarkable career as the conservative writer par excellence. Included are essays that capture Buckley's joyful boyhood and family life; his years as a conservative firebrand at Yale; the life of a young army officer; his love of wine and sailing; memories of his favourite friends; the great influences of music and religion; a life in politics; and exploring the beauty, diversity, and exactitude of the English language


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Here is a unique collection of fifty years of essays chosen to form an unconventional autobiography and capstone to his remarkable career as the conservative writer par excellence. Included are essays that capture Buckley's joyful boyhood and family life; his years as a conservative firebrand at Yale; the life of a young army officer; his love of wine and sailing; memories Here is a unique collection of fifty years of essays chosen to form an unconventional autobiography and capstone to his remarkable career as the conservative writer par excellence. Included are essays that capture Buckley's joyful boyhood and family life; his years as a conservative firebrand at Yale; the life of a young army officer; his love of wine and sailing; memories of his favourite friends; the great influences of music and religion; a life in politics; and exploring the beauty, diversity, and exactitude of the English language

30 review for Miles Gone By: A Literary Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brent M. Jones

    "Miles Gone By" by William F. Buckley Jr. is a collection of his essays from over 50 years. He said that “it is material that he brought together with an autobiography in mind using articles, books and his newspaper columns”. Buckley’s diverse mix of his life-loves, history that includes his youth growing up, his impressive and interesting friends, love of sailing, love of language, music and skiing, are all puzzle pieces in getting to know him better. It would be easy to overlook the uniqueness "Miles Gone By" by William F. Buckley Jr. is a collection of his essays from over 50 years. He said that “it is material that he brought together with an autobiography in mind using articles, books and his newspaper columns”. Buckley’s diverse mix of his life-loves, history that includes his youth growing up, his impressive and interesting friends, love of sailing, love of language, music and skiing, are all puzzle pieces in getting to know him better. It would be easy to overlook the uniqueness of this life by labeling the author as mostly reflecting a political point of view. A favorite chapter was “God and Man at Yale A controversy revisited.” In 1950 this book was considered very controversial in it’s defense of individualism, religion and capitalism. He discussed the 25th anniversary edition of the book where he wrote a comprehensive introduction for the book. The essays retell the stories that many Buckley followers know well. In the final chapter “Thoughts on a Final Passage” he likens his life to a voyage not really knowing where it would lead in another 5 years of retirement. He said that “you are moving at racing speed, parting the buttery sea as with a scalpel, and the waters roar by, themselves exuberantly subdued by your powers to command your way through them.” More on this author and book at Web Site www.connectedeventsmatter.com

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jen B

    Buckley is one of the few authors whose writing is capable of making anything, anything at all, interesting to the reader. This literary autobiography, as he entitled it, is a delightful overview of the thoughtful man's life, from childhood to his leaving the helm of National Review and preparing to embark upon a final sailing trip around the world with his son. I miss Mr. Buckley, having loved reading his work since I was in middle school, but this brings him back with all of the wit and liveli Buckley is one of the few authors whose writing is capable of making anything, anything at all, interesting to the reader. This literary autobiography, as he entitled it, is a delightful overview of the thoughtful man's life, from childhood to his leaving the helm of National Review and preparing to embark upon a final sailing trip around the world with his son. I miss Mr. Buckley, having loved reading his work since I was in middle school, but this brings him back with all of the wit and liveliness, to say nothing of effortlessly elegant turn of phrase, for which he was loved by so many.

  3. 4 out of 5

    The American Conservative

    'In short, Miles Gone By is an autobiographical aperitif when what we should have had is the whole roast. Bill Buckley insists that he will not write a real autobiography—is it out of modesty, or is it out of a post molestam senectutem fatigue? A part of the autobiography of John Dos Passos exists in the posthumous publication of his letters. But a full Dos Passos autobiography would have told us much that has not been said about the literary world of the 1920s and the Spanish Civil War. Autobio 'In short, Miles Gone By is an autobiographical aperitif when what we should have had is the whole roast. Bill Buckley insists that he will not write a real autobiography—is it out of modesty, or is it out of a post molestam senectutem fatigue? A part of the autobiography of John Dos Passos exists in the posthumous publication of his letters. But a full Dos Passos autobiography would have told us much that has not been said about the literary world of the 1920s and the Spanish Civil War. Autobiographical accounts are part of the endless rendition of our divina commedia. And so, though there is much that is good and memorable to read in this volume, and a reminder of what was once before indited, it is not the “literary” account of a man and his life that the cover alleges.' Read the full review, "Recounting the Miles," on our website: http://www.theamericanconservative.co...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra Cannon

    I picked this up at random because I liked the title and have vague, favorable feelings for Buckley as a person. I honestly expected it to be very boring, but I can't put it down. It is really funny and engaging and wonderfully written. My husband says it is ok that I am sort of falling for Buckley now because he is a) brilliant and b) dead. EDIT: I originally began reading this book and wrote this review back in 2011. Not sure why these books are generating in my feed again. I never finished it I picked this up at random because I liked the title and have vague, favorable feelings for Buckley as a person. I honestly expected it to be very boring, but I can't put it down. It is really funny and engaging and wonderfully written. My husband says it is ok that I am sort of falling for Buckley now because he is a) brilliant and b) dead. EDIT: I originally began reading this book and wrote this review back in 2011. Not sure why these books are generating in my feed again. I never finished it. And Buckley is fascinating and a great writer, but no getting around that he’s pretentious. 2020 Alexandra is not in love.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    Mr. Buckley calls this a "literary" autobiography and I expect he is accurate in his definition. However, this is just a series of reprinted articles and in some cases, chapters of previously published works. I read it in paperback with no CD. I love his wit and his sailing writing and had hoped for something new. It is kind of a "best of" for those who don't want to read Airborne or Atlantic High or other works which may be out of print.

  6. 4 out of 5

    John

    The style here struck me as an informal conversation with a friend on the front porch rather than the formal discourse required of a book. The writing was light, if that is possible for Buckley but certainly Buckley, and yet he left the polemics for a different time and place. The chapters were all at once heartfelt, humble and enthusiastic; evident throughout too was his innate goodness, humor and basic good nature. The book is a collection of 50 essays from early childhood, his first bestselli The style here struck me as an informal conversation with a friend on the front porch rather than the formal discourse required of a book. The writing was light, if that is possible for Buckley but certainly Buckley, and yet he left the polemics for a different time and place. The chapters were all at once heartfelt, humble and enthusiastic; evident throughout too was his innate goodness, humor and basic good nature. The book is a collection of 50 essays from early childhood, his first bestselling book as a college senior “God and Man at Yale” -- now God and Man in Heaven – through all of his life adventures of work, friends, colleagues, sailing, music etc, etc. He often made references of his fondness for reading, which I found really neat, and his struggles to find the time in his busy schedule – 70 speaking engagements a year plus his magazine, talk show, etc – to read. He was a man of intellectual and physical élan, of constant motion and action. I thoroughly enjoyed these essays and whenever my spirits may flag all that is required to “repristinate my fires” is go back and read more of his writing.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jim DeTar

    This is another one where I had the privilege of reading the book and then interviewing the writer, Buckley, on the phone for a profile I was writing of him at the time. No matter what your politics, it's hard to resist enjoying the workings of a brilliant mind. And that's what you get in "Miles Gone By." Buckley is alternately very personal, brilliant, humorous and scathing in indictments of what he considers lazy thinking and outmoded ideas. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with him and reading hi This is another one where I had the privilege of reading the book and then interviewing the writer, Buckley, on the phone for a profile I was writing of him at the time. No matter what your politics, it's hard to resist enjoying the workings of a brilliant mind. And that's what you get in "Miles Gone By." Buckley is alternately very personal, brilliant, humorous and scathing in indictments of what he considers lazy thinking and outmoded ideas. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with him and reading his book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brian Eshleman

    Has its moments. Profiles, especially of Whitaker Chambers, are memorable and provide a framework for buckley's insights. Much drift in between in this loosely connected book. The sailing section itself seems to go on forever without adding much. I wonder what would have happened had Buckley started from scratch and spent his considerable powers shaping sentences and scenes to invite us into his life. Rewarmed columns don't quite do that.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    I loved reading this book, and of course my internal voice as I did so was WFB's! I bought this book when it first came out, I think back in 2004, and that edition came with an audio CD with the author narrating various excerpts. I used to listen to it in my car as I drove to school, and my younger brother would groan! My favorite anecdote was the first on the CD, when his sister, Patricia, didn't wave to FDR at her riding competition. "I thought you didn't like him."

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mark Mortensen

    The essays of William F. Buckley Jr. have received much acclaim from leading journalists and conservatives. I am fond of his thoughts and views; however his very extensive flowing vocabulary and high-brow elitist writing style is a bit over the top for me.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Otto Lehto

    I am not a conservative, but I love William F. Buckley. His insights are worth hearing. This semiautobiography is organized as a collection of essays and textual fragments gathered from his long and illustrious career. Some of the bits are more interesting than others, but the sheer scope of the material, combined with a firm editorial hand, makes for an epic journey without much extra fluff. I said without much. Were I blessed with any interest in sailing, I would have given this book five stars. I am not a conservative, but I love William F. Buckley. His insights are worth hearing. This semiautobiography is organized as a collection of essays and textual fragments gathered from his long and illustrious career. Some of the bits are more interesting than others, but the sheer scope of the material, combined with a firm editorial hand, makes for an epic journey without much extra fluff. I said without much. Were I blessed with any interest in sailing, I would have given this book five stars. The passion comes through, but so does the obsession. Like the ocean itself, it's too big for its own good, skipper. I'd say skip it. My favourite bits include the recollections of his childhood and adolescence, the intriguing saga of the divisive university politics at Yale, the passionate love letter to wine, the transcript of the famous Panama debate with Reagan, the copious pages of political and literary gossip, and the amusing asides on a dozen trivialities enlivened with wit and irony. All of it is served with honey; on nigh every page you can taste the sweet and unswerving devotion, by Mr. Buckley, to mastering the peculiar manners, the power and the vocabulary of the English tongue. Buckley is no saint. While I loathe his Catholic mysticism and warmongering apologetics, there is no conservative I'd rather have around today. He was never anything less than idealistic. He was deadly precise in his reactionary fervour and always honest in his dealings, which gave progressives some healthy target practice - and a good model to emulate on the other side. Being dangerous enough to be taken seriously is already an impressive, lasting legacy, but this is not the best engraving on his tombstone. No. Buckley's greatest contribution, I believe, was his cultivation, by word and deed, of the power of reasoned debate. He showed us that there is no controversy that cannot be made more tolerable by being placed on the Firing Line. Without "frenemies" like him to keep us straight, the endangered art of civility will sink to the sea with the Titanic and Atlantis.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nathan DiBagno

    William F. Buckley, Jr. is a fascinating character. In some ways, he and Martin Luther are two of the most fascinating characters to me in the past 500 years. They have some similarities. I realize this can be an odd statement on the surface, considering that Buckley was Catholic while Martin Luther castigated the Catholic Church’s doctrine. However, both came from a relatively elite and educated background and family for their times. Both started a movement that pushed back against the groupthin William F. Buckley, Jr. is a fascinating character. In some ways, he and Martin Luther are two of the most fascinating characters to me in the past 500 years. They have some similarities. I realize this can be an odd statement on the surface, considering that Buckley was Catholic while Martin Luther castigated the Catholic Church’s doctrine. However, both came from a relatively elite and educated background and family for their times. Both started a movement that pushed back against the groupthink of their time. But also both in a way helped preserve something. Luther revealed the Catholic Church’s false teaching and helped preserve the concept of salvation through Christ alone through faith alone. Buckley helped preserve a concept on which our country was founded: conservatism and limited government. Both seemed like revolutions, but they were really preserving something that had seemed to have been overlooked and forgotten. Buckley is often referred to as the founder of the modern conservative movement. He’s been credited for heavily influencing President Ronald Reagan (by Reagan himself). He founded National Review in 1955 and began the public affairs show Firing Line in 1966. (Ronald Reagan said he was a Democrat the first time he picked up a copy of National Review.) So with that in mind, I began reading his autobiography “Miles Gone By” with interest, hoping to see a bird’s eye view of how he influenced conservatism and America. But that’s not what I got. I did not sense a person who was dedicated to show the big picture or who was trying to show how he had a major place in history. On the contrary, this was clearly a man who loved the minutiae of life. The first time I started to read it, I got bored and stopped because he spent a lot of time talking about his childhood and equestrian endeavors. I always considered topics regarding horse riding and sailing as elitist. I grew up as a child of missionaries, so sports that involve as much disposable income as horse riding and sailing seemed the thing of rich people. No doubt, Buckley grew up as an elite. His parents sent him to private school, spent good money on tutors to teach him music, proper diction, language, and so on. Relatively little in his autobiography is said about politics growing up. He goes into great detail when talking about sailing and his other hobbies. He remembers specifics, and he utilizes that private-school educated language, diction, and vocabulary that his parents invested for him. His writing and word choice is precise and exquisite. He was often praised as well as criticized for his vast vocabulary. (There’s a chapter in there just about his vocabulary.) He stops to take time to vividly describe details of his life. He is always stopping to smell the roses. Here is one gem in which he describes celebrating Christmas on a sailing excursion: “The girls were working on the decorations, and by the time the sun went down we had a twinkling Christmas tree on deck and twinkling lights along the canvas of the dodger. The whole forward section was piled with Christmas gifts and decorations, and when we sat down for dinner, with three kerosene lights along the supper table, the moon beamed, lambent, aimed at us as though we were the single targets of the heavens.” The entire book “Miles Gone By,” which is a collection of essays by Buckley over the years, is packed full of great writing. Every sentence is comprised of words carefully chosen, punctuation that weaves thoughts together splendidly, and verbs that are perfect for the occasion. Most of us will need a dictionary nearby when reading Buckley. It’s hard to take in and read in its entirety. Trying to read Buckly is like trying to keep pace with Michael Jordan while playing basketball one-on-one. It’s exhausting, but you stand in amazement the whole time. His writing is an art form if its own. Some parts remind me slightly of C.S. Lewis, but Lewis does not use anywhere near the vocabulary that Buckley does. Toward the end, Buckley starts to discuss the conservative movement. After I waited patiently as he recounted his sailing expeditions, upbringing, and other endeavors, he finally mentions what I had been waiting for: talks of the conservative movement. He reviews how Barry Goldwater runs as a true, pure conservative — not one of those Rockefeller Republicans — in 1964 … and is promptly creamed by Lyndon Johnson. Then 16 years later Ronald Regans is swept into office, then wins about as solidly in 1984 as Goldwater lost in 1964. Buckley discussed some work in directing money toward conservative issues, but even there doesn’t discuss it much. As I read I continue to imagine Buckley today and how he would fit in with the current conservative movement and Republican Party. It’s hard to imagine it. The current party doesn’t seem overly conservative. It certainly does not seem elitist, especially not in the age of Donald Trump. Even though Donald Trump is a billionaire, he doesn’t seem elitist. Buckley, who was a Yale graduate and New York City resident, was well known as being calculated, well articulate, and academic. And perhaps that is where his appeal comes from. By coming across as an elite, he was the ultimate rebel. Liberals are constantly branding conservatives as being from backward, rural areas. Universities and academic establishments are known for being monolithic in their liberal values. Buckley pushed back against the groupthink of academic back in 1951 when he wrote “God and Man and Yale.” Perhaps by showing that he is an elite and an academic who can rub shoulders with Ivy Leagues and remain a pure, untarnished conservative, he shows that he is the ultimate anti-establishment and the ultimate rebel. But perhaps he would not fit in today’s culture because he took time to enjoy the minutiae of life. Our world of Twitter and memes seems to often focus just on political events in a hit-and-run fashion. Today’s culture seems to always be in a hurry, rushing and chasing, yet never arriving anywhere nor catching anything. Today’s culture also seems to be about soundbites and quick fixes, it never fixing anything and never persuading anyone. That was not Buckley’s way. He would take the time to sit down and have a conversation with someone he disagreed with. Not a debate, mind you; a conversation. As a society, collectively we today would not have time for someone like Buckley. However, perhaps individually we can learn something from him about how we can stop to smell the roses.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Charles J

    “Miles Gone By” is a good, but somewhat disorienting, book. It’s disorienting, first, because it’s disjointed—while divided into chapters covering different topics, it’s actually composed entirely of previously published pieces, without any attempt to knit them together coherently, in time or theme, as would be usual in an autobiography. The result isn’t bad, it’s just different, and that’s disorienting. But the book is also disorienting for another reason. It is very much a book about people, no “Miles Gone By” is a good, but somewhat disorienting, book. It’s disorienting, first, because it’s disjointed—while divided into chapters covering different topics, it’s actually composed entirely of previously published pieces, without any attempt to knit them together coherently, in time or theme, as would be usual in an autobiography. The result isn’t bad, it’s just different, and that’s disorienting. But the book is also disorienting for another reason. It is very much a book about people, not issues or events. And the people in it—political, literary, academic, etc.—are generally spoken of in the present tense, because they were very much “of the moment” when each piece in the book that mentions them was written, from the 1950s onward. A more typical autobiography looks backward, and places each person, whether implicitly or explicitly, in his time. At every point in “Miles Gone By,” it is the eternal present. What results is a sense of disorientation, because, for the most part, these people who figure so significantly in the book, as colossi of their time—are forgotten. Oh, sure, they’re not all totally forgotten, though some are. But they don’t matter anymore, except, perhaps, in the memories of aging Baby Boomers. And many of them mean nothing at all, for those who knew them are all dead, and they are little different to most of us than most of the famous men of Lincoln’s time. Let’s just pick a few names. Richard Abplanalp. One of Richard Nixon’s closest friends, or so Wikipedia tells me in a short entry. He invented the modern aerosol valve and is introduced as someone well-known. Walter Cronkite—sure, people know generally who he was, but despite what aging hippies may tell you, he is not relevant to today (and in retrospect, Cronkite was a vain, over-rated, silly, pernicious man). Adam Clayton Powell. Who was he, exactly? Wikipedia is your friend. John Kenneth Galbraith, apparently the Paul Krugman of his time, and forgotten as Krugman will be. John Lindsay, miserably failed and largely forgotten mayor of New York City (and his even-more-forgotten opponent, Abe Beame). And on and on, a long march of faded men. Of course, there are exceptions to this obscurity—Presidents appear, and there appear, naturally given Buckley’s professional career, many highly relevant conservative figures, though they, of course, are also unknown to today’s larger culture. But certainly Whittaker Chambers is a much more important historical figure than Walter Cronkite or Adam Clayton Powell, regardless of who is remembered by more people at this remove. That doesn’t mean these people shouldn’t be in the book. My point is that the organizational structure of the book does not weigh these people as they would be weighed in a normal autobiography, and that disorients the reader. The book works as time capsule and as a way to understand what Buckley thought and emphasized, by his choices. It is just strange to read. Not bad. Just strange. As L.P. Hartley said, the past is a foreign country. It is a shame there is nobody like Buckley now. But there could not be. Buckley, as were the players in his book, was a creature of his time. And that was a time when serious people ran the country, who were expected to justify themselves to God and man by cogent and logical argument. Failure to do so would make you a laughingstock, not a martyr. Appealing to the supposed “privilege” of your opponent in lieu of reasoning would have gotten you a blank stare or, more likely, a well-deserved fist to the face, followed by psychiatric treatment. Today, the dominant voices in our culture look at the shoulders of giants, and instead of climbing them to stand on them, instead demand they be torn down as symbols of oppression, privilege and imperialism. This denouement is because we let come to power bands of aging hippies, disciples of Alinsky and interested in power, not reason, whose logical and inevitable endpoint (for now—it can get worse) is Obama. That descent, combined with the coarsening of American popular culture, where the base interests and desires of the free-spending and ever-more-numerous members of the lower classes dictate that the focus and spending be on myriad atrocities like reality TV, the Kardashians and rap “music,” leaves no room for the leadership of intelligent public intellectuals, particularly when they are wealthy and borderline pretentious, like Buckley. Too bad. True public intellectuals are now disfavored regardless of the political view of the public intellectual. Really, what public intellectuals are there today who are known outside of very narrow circles, or who have power? (Hacks like Paul Krugman and other members of the NYT editorial team are not public intellectuals, whatever they may think.) For example, today’s conservatives are not Buckley or Chambers, or any of the others mentioned in “Miles Gone By.” They mostly lack any philosophical depth, and are either shallow populists (any TV conservative) or deeper men focused on the pugilism the times require (Breitbart, dead now; Schlichter). Sure, there are some deep thinkers in the public eye today (Douthat, Dreher)—but that the former is a voice crying in the wilderness and the latter spends his days planning mass conservative withdrawal from society merely proves my point. Today, Donald Trump is known and has power, and like the demagogue Cleon in ancient Athens, he intends to use it, and not with prudence. The recent documentary “Best Of Enemies,” showcasing the TV debates of Buckley and Gore Vidal, during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, shows this clearly. The debates were mainstream TV, shown every night to the entire network audience. The masses would not watch that now, and if they did, it would be to criticize without understanding the players and their styles. The march toward “Idiocracy” continues, and Buckley would not fit, as every word of this book shows. Oh, of course, the writing in “Miles Gone By” is excellent. The stories are engaging, and despite that the people mostly no longer matter and are barely remembered, interesting (though Buckley’s unapologetic pursuit of the pursuits of the wealthy grates in today’s egalitarian mode). The book is worth reading, but, sadly, reading it is like viewing a fly in amber—a limpid, frozen memory of a time beyond reach.

  14. 5 out of 5

    John Minster

    A wonderful compendium of Buckley's considerably literary achievements. He is a lovely and variegated writer with interesting things to say about most subjects. There was too much sailing here for me, but beyond that Buckley's literary flare, his considerable ability to turn a phrase, and his playful sense of humor are alone worth the price of admission. That he's also the most formidable American conservative intellectual of the second half of the 20th Century makes for an especially entertaini A wonderful compendium of Buckley's considerably literary achievements. He is a lovely and variegated writer with interesting things to say about most subjects. There was too much sailing here for me, but beyond that Buckley's literary flare, his considerable ability to turn a phrase, and his playful sense of humor are alone worth the price of admission. That he's also the most formidable American conservative intellectual of the second half of the 20th Century makes for an especially entertaining read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Travis

    A book of published essays about Buckley and his friends. A little heavy on sailing articles, but if you like WFB, this book is full of treats.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Bright

    I’ll start out honestly and say...I skipped a bit. There were some parts that peaked my interest and others that just lost me completely. I’ve given this rating based on the parts that gripped me.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alex Clark

    This is a good read when you are looking to better your grammar or increase your vocabulary. At times it can be a bit dry, as many of the essayist's subjects are from a time well past.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mark Taylor

    William F. Buckley, Jr. never wrote a conventional autobiography. The closest he came was his 2004 book Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography, in which he collects his favorite writings that are about him personally. Miles Gone By is a fantastic book, and it’s an essential read for anyone who is interested in learning more about Buckley’s life. Despite Buckley’s reputation as one of the main intellectuals behind the modern American conservative movement, politics do not play a large part in Mi William F. Buckley, Jr. never wrote a conventional autobiography. The closest he came was his 2004 book Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography, in which he collects his favorite writings that are about him personally. Miles Gone By is a fantastic book, and it’s an essential read for anyone who is interested in learning more about Buckley’s life. Despite Buckley’s reputation as one of the main intellectuals behind the modern American conservative movement, politics do not play a large part in Miles Gone By. Miles Gone By is really about the man behind the politics, and partisans of either stripe can enjoy Buckley’s wit, joie de vivre, impressive vocabulary, and generous spirit, all of which are on full display. True to Buckley’s professed list of his joys in life, the section on sailing is the longest one in the book. Buckley’s passion for sailing comes through clearly on every page. It’s kind of amazing that this multi-hyphenate of a man was able to take the time to unwind and actually take a vacation. Buckley was well known for being generous to his friends, and there are numerous examples of this throughout Miles Gone By, especially in a section entitled “Ten Friends” where Buckley describes briefly the first time he met ten famous friends. I think only William F. Buckley could name David Niven, Ronald Reagan, Tom Wolfe, Roger Moore, and John Kenneth Galbraith among his closest friends. Buckley was also well known for his finely penned obituaries, which he crafted for his magazine National Review, and there are some superb examples of those included in Miles Gone By as well. Throughout Miles Gone By, I was struck by what a rich and full life William F. Buckley lived. He was truly a renaissance man. There’s an essay about Buckley playing a Bach concerto with a symphony orchestra. There’s an essay about Buckley descending down to the Titanic in the tiny French submarine Nautile, at a time when he was one of only about one hundred people in the world to have seen the wreck. There’s an excerpt from Buckley’s book The Unmaking of a Mayor, which chronicled his unsuccessful run for mayor of New York City in 1965. One of Buckley’s greatest quips was when someone asked him what he would do if he won the election. His response? “Demand a recount.” “My Own Secret Right-Wing Conspiracy” is a very entertaining essay about Buckley’s involvement in the John T. Gaty Trust. John T. Gaty was a wealthy Republican from Wichita, Kansas, who set up a trust fund to distribute part of his estate to organizations that were politically conservative. Gaty named some of the most prominent Republicans in the country as the trustees of his trust. That list included Buckley, Barry Goldwater, John Tower, Strom Thurmond, Edgar Eisenhower, Dwight’s more conservative brother, and J. Edgar Hoover. The trust began in 1967, and part of the stipulation of the trust was that the trustees would meet in person in Wichita to vote on how to allocate the funds. Amazingly enough, for seven years, everyone attended in person. (Hoover withdrew from the trust before the first meeting, as he made it a practice to not accept any trusteeships.) Buckley contends that the Gaty Trust played a key role in helping the conservative movement spread, as the trustees allocated a considerable amount of money to different organizations. My one criticism of Miles Gone By is that Buckley doesn’t always tell us where the pieces are from. Is this an article he wrote for a magazine? Does it come from a book of his essays? Is it something new he wrote just for the book? But that’s a small quibble for such a delightful book. William F. Buckley was, first and foremost, a writer, and Miles Gone By proves that he was a damn good one. One of my favorite quotes from the book is this one: “Art of any sort is very, very serious business: that which is sublime can’t be anything less.” (p.16)

  19. 5 out of 5

    MC

    Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography is the closest that William F. Buckley, Jr., ever came to an autobiography in his lifetime. After having retired from the journal he founded, National Review, the conservative icon seemed to realize that his days on the earth were winding down, that he was in the “twilight of his life”, so to speak. With the above thought in mind, Buckley decided to compile certain of his columns from over the years to create a narrative of some of his experiences in his li Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography is the closest that William F. Buckley, Jr., ever came to an autobiography in his lifetime. After having retired from the journal he founded, National Review, the conservative icon seemed to realize that his days on the earth were winding down, that he was in the “twilight of his life”, so to speak. With the above thought in mind, Buckley decided to compile certain of his columns from over the years to create a narrative of some of his experiences in his life. The reason for this decision is two-fold. First of all, he wasn't sure how long he would have to write an autobiography, or the energy to do so. Therefore, he took a more feasible approach via compiling past essays. The second reason is that he felt that, if he wrote an autobiography, he would simply be reiterating statements he had already made. What is the point of that? The idea did work surprising well, I must say. With the introductions to each section and column/series of columns (depending on the case or subject matter), Buckley does, in fact accomplish the stated purpose. Via these pieces reprinted in this book, a relatively complete picture of the life of Bill Buckley is woven for the reader. There were some issues, to be sure. Buckley chose and included perhaps a tad too much space to columns where he had written about people he knew in his life. He was a caring man, by all that was said about him, and it shows here. It's a little hard to begrudge these reminiscences in a man at his point of his life, and I don't really do so, per se. I just think it weakened the book a bit. The other issue is really one that is subjective, even more so than the above possible criticism. This is that Buckley did not spend more than a few words on the issue of his own mortality. To talk of this very much would arguably have been morbid, so one can understand him not doing so. On the other hand, he did, in fact, reference it, so some more words may be preferred by some people. I didn't care, really, to be honest, but some might. This was a touching final collection of pieces by this conservative icon, and well-worth reading for any fan of Buckley, anyone interested in conservative philosophy, and those just interested in politics in general.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    I'd really like to give this book a 3.75. It's an odd autobiography, as it focuses on the things most personal to the author (sailing, skiing, critics) and not on what the typical reader would prefer (events, NR, Firing Line) to read the most about. While he writes about growing up in his large family, there is little mention of his wife and son, and only a few about his siblings as adults. The long section on Yale I found the most thought provoking. It's interesting that at least some critics of I'd really like to give this book a 3.75. It's an odd autobiography, as it focuses on the things most personal to the author (sailing, skiing, critics) and not on what the typical reader would prefer (events, NR, Firing Line) to read the most about. While he writes about growing up in his large family, there is little mention of his wife and son, and only a few about his siblings as adults. The long section on Yale I found the most thought provoking. It's interesting that at least some critics of [I]God and Man at Yale[/I] admitted 20 or 30 years after the fact that Buckley was correct and they had been wrong. The best line in the whole book, and one that I'm still digesting is this, "[I]I believe that the duel between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world. I further believe that the struggle between individualism and collectivism is the same struggle reproduced on another level.[/I]" One criticism I had of NR over the years has been their return to the topic of Alger Hiss decades following his just imprisonment. As a reader I'd roll my eyes at each year's several Hiss articles. The well-practiced eye rolls are applied to this book as well, with Whittaker Chambers' impact on Buckley made all too clear, repeatedly. Buckley was friends with Reagan and most of Reagan's cadre, but they are hardly mentioned, but Chambers is mentioned dozens of times. It's beautifully written, as we expect from Buckley. Many of the anecdotes are terrific, but this reader feels there should be twice as many included. One photograph is incorrectly captioned. My internal red pen shook with a passion.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mike W

    William F Buckley Jr. was a brilliant conservative polemicist. Indeed, he founded the modern conservative movement in America. And in this delightful book, he shares his reflections--mostly a collection of previously published articles--on the "Miles Gone By" in his life. The first third of the book is a little dull, however, for anyone uninterested in sailing, one of Buckley's passions. But after that the book picks up. It offers anecdotes and commentary on some of the most interesting and influe William F Buckley Jr. was a brilliant conservative polemicist. Indeed, he founded the modern conservative movement in America. And in this delightful book, he shares his reflections--mostly a collection of previously published articles--on the "Miles Gone By" in his life. The first third of the book is a little dull, however, for anyone uninterested in sailing, one of Buckley's passions. But after that the book picks up. It offers anecdotes and commentary on some of the most interesting and influential Americans of the 20th century, including John Kenneth Galbraith, Milton Friedman and Whittaker Chambers. Surprisingly, for a book that purports to offer the memoirs of a leading figure in American politics, the book is not especially political. It makes clear, of course, that Buckley was a conservative and explains why--Buckley emphasizes his deep distrust of centralized authority and points convincingly to the spectacular failures of the Soviet Union and other communist states as evidence for his view. But any given chapter is as likely to share with the reader Buckley's thoughts on wine or the proper use of the comma as on tax policy or detente. Everyone with an interest in American politics ought to read this book. Buckley espoused his views with a force, an eloquence and a penchant for polysyllabicism that no pundit has matched since.

  22. 5 out of 5

    kevin kvalvik

    A beautiful collection of articles and remembrances published a few years before his death. Unheard of in political circles now, Buckley was an academic conservative. His strong arguments and bracing wit have few equals. Add to that a polyglot's love of language and one can only regret that he never attended their dinner party with acerbic scalpel in one hand and his working thesaurus in the other. A conservative by which a liberal can be moved, if not converted. This book is a leisurely study of A beautiful collection of articles and remembrances published a few years before his death. Unheard of in political circles now, Buckley was an academic conservative. His strong arguments and bracing wit have few equals. Add to that a polyglot's love of language and one can only regret that he never attended their dinner party with acerbic scalpel in one hand and his working thesaurus in the other. A conservative by which a liberal can be moved, if not converted. This book is a leisurely study of the bygone way of life of columnist, editor and the definitive bon vivant. One does not simply read Buckley any more than one should gulp down nice wine. Words like savor and relish come to mind. He was an author of scathing rebuttal and blistering affront but also known for his extensive encomium for lost friends. (The word, "encomium," is just one of dozens that one must search for in the dictionary at hand's reach while luxuriating in his lovely prose.)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Scott Marquis

    A wonderful "literary" autobiography. Rather than pen a traditional memoir, Buckley produces existing essays about his life. In a sense he had already written an autobiography, all that was needed was to arrange these pieces into some logical order. I especially enjoyed his description of the development of the Blackford Oaks charcter in his popular spy novel series. He was unashamedly pro-American and Oakes' Communist foes depicted correctly as evil. Most other spy novels in the Cold War era de A wonderful "literary" autobiography. Rather than pen a traditional memoir, Buckley produces existing essays about his life. In a sense he had already written an autobiography, all that was needed was to arrange these pieces into some logical order. I especially enjoyed his description of the development of the Blackford Oaks charcter in his popular spy novel series. He was unashamedly pro-American and Oakes' Communist foes depicted correctly as evil. Most other spy novels in the Cold War era depicted CIA vs. KGB as a battle of moral equivalents. Buckley's novels would have none of that nonsense. A very good book about the life of the intellectual arm of modern conservatism that led the Republican party away from northeastern liberalism and ushered in the likes of Goldwater and Reagan.

  24. 5 out of 5

    John Conneely

    A compilation of Buckley's autobiographical writings that span the decades. Some are hilarious. He has a talent for self deprecation. Don't miss "Why Don't We Complain?" After a ride on a hot commuter train during which no one beseeched the conductor to turn down the thermostat, Buckley resolves to speak up the next time such a situation presents iteself. He does so while standing in line at a Vermont ski shop only to get an embarrassing comeuppance of the most dramatic sort. There's no real nee A compilation of Buckley's autobiographical writings that span the decades. Some are hilarious. He has a talent for self deprecation. Don't miss "Why Don't We Complain?" After a ride on a hot commuter train during which no one beseeched the conductor to turn down the thermostat, Buckley resolves to speak up the next time such a situation presents iteself. He does so while standing in line at a Vermont ski shop only to get an embarrassing comeuppance of the most dramatic sort. There's no real need to follow the chapters consecutively. I'm enjoying dipping in and out of the book for quick and casual readings.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tom Stamper

    This was my second time through Buckey's semi-autobiography and it was every bit as good as the first. What surprised me is how much of it I forgot. This is probably due to its division into 50 or so essays about so many different subjects you could lose track. He covers politics, and music, and sailing, friends, and anything that comes into his influence. The first time around I read the physical book and this time I listened to Buckley's own narration. I think this is the only of his books whe This was my second time through Buckey's semi-autobiography and it was every bit as good as the first. What surprised me is how much of it I forgot. This is probably due to its division into 50 or so essays about so many different subjects you could lose track. He covers politics, and music, and sailing, friends, and anything that comes into his influence. The first time around I read the physical book and this time I listened to Buckley's own narration. I think this is the only of his books where he does the audio version.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Huston

    I can honestly say that William F. Buckley was not my favourite person; I just could not cope with his conservative views. But he wrote amazing prose, and thankfully, he mellowed over time. (besides, I can't help but admire a man who can play a harpsicord very very well...) Terrific reading. For the longer review, please go here: http://www.epinions.com/content_17356... I can honestly say that William F. Buckley was not my favourite person; I just could not cope with his conservative views. But he wrote amazing prose, and thankfully, he mellowed over time. (besides, I can't help but admire a man who can play a harpsicord very very well...) Terrific reading. For the longer review, please go here: http://www.epinions.com/content_17356...

  27. 5 out of 5

    James Cooper

    I throughly enjoyed reading Mr. Buckley. The Reagan debate and the chapter on language was quite amusing. His graceful use of the English language had me going to Merriam quite often which only furthered my interest in the book. While this was a book of previous work by Buckley, sometimes it is often refreshing to "reread" past works.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rhingst

    Lots of interesting personal anecdotes of this unique American family. Too many stories of his friends, most of whom I've never heard. Whether you like his politics or not, WFB's confidence and joie de vie make for an interesting life story.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Susie

    Love his politics or hate them, Buckley's writing is always superb and captivating. The essays included in this book really tell the story of a facinating life. I especially enjoyed the pices on sailing, friends, his trip on the Orient Express, and definitive vacations.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    Hugely entertaining, but also moving. I like the travel writing best, because if someone can describe a transocean sail in such a way that I would actually like to do it, that person can write. He used words with precision, absolute clarity and emotional grace.

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