NEARER, MY GOD by William F. Buckley Jr.

NEARER, MY GOD

An Autobiography of Faith

KIRKUS REVIEW

This eloquent spiritual "autobiography" is, disappointingly, almost entirely about people other than Buckley, and about theology rather than faith. Buckley, erstwhile leader of the political right (founder and editor of the National Review) has departed from his usual subjects here. (Refreshingly, he humbly admits that this book took five years to write and that he was dissatisfied with the finished product, feeling that it lacked the fervor and narrative vigor usually associated with spiritual memoirs.) The book begins wonderfully: Buckley recounts his Catholic childhood in England and America, describing his devout parents, his privileged life of tutors, travels, and boarding schools. With his customary humor, he offers a teenager's view of Jesuit education; he also reveals a tender side, recounting his early prayers for his beloved mother's health (somewhat precarious after bearing 11 children). Yet the tenor of this chapter is in no way sustained throughout the book, which becomes an argumentative debate about the great issues of the Catholic Church. Even here, Buckle), does not reveal much of himself, choosing instead to recount the intellectual struggles of adult friends who converted to Catholicism, among them Malcolm Muggeridge, Clare Boothe Luce, and Richard John Neuhaus. Buckley calls these pundits "the forum," and he solicits their advice about many of the great theological debates: theodicy, the meaning of the crucifixion, papal infallibility ("the forum is divided on the issue of contraception," he tells us). Even the chapter entitled "Experiencing Lourdes" is primarily a detached observer's discussion of the site's history and the Church's lengthy process for authenticating miracles. One of the few hints we get about Buckley's own position is his restrained comment that "the spiritual tonic is felt" by pilgrims at Lourdes. But despite the aloofness, Buckley remains, as ever, a witty and controversial commentator. Readers looking for meaty discussions of Catholic doctrine could do a lot worse.
Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-385-47818-6
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1997




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