OVERDRIVE by William F. Buckley Jr.


A Personal Documentary
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Again, as in Cruising Speed (1971), Buckley takes us day by day, sometimes hour by hour, through a week or so in his busy, busy life--in this case eight days from the fall of 1981. There is lots of National Review business, of course, including the consideration of an expensive lease renewal. ("I ponder the extraordinary hold on you that a property, and an area, can develop.") There are a couple of speeches to prepare and deliver, letters to answer, phone calls to parry. Buckley muses on his reasons for writing, for working hard: "Why do I do so much? I expect that the promptings issue from a subtle dialectical counterpoint. Of what? Well, the call of recta ratio, and the fear of boredom." (He then goes on, patronizingly, to explain what recta ratio means--and to consider the "appeal of generic Latin terms.") He reminisces--about a sailing trip with Ronald Reagan, Jr., about his prep school, about his brief CIA stint, about a column in which he mistakenly maligned Pat Boone. ("I was terribly grieved at the hurt I had done him," Buckley concludes, but his description of the incident is actually blithe, insensitive, and self-aggrandizing.) He tapes television's Firing Line, gets a phone call from "my old friend the commander-in-chief," sails with David Niven and publisher Sam Vaughan, heaps praise on assorted friends and family, plugs several of his books, goes to Mass, wrestles with a few current issues, carries on a number of little feuds. And some of this, perhaps, may engage those easily dazzled by name-droppings--or by little peeks into Life with the Buckleys. ("I completed my notes, and are the perfect chicken sandwich Gloria brought me, with a glass of cool white wine. Pat came in, en route to her lunch, and we discussed the weekend plans, and she told me now don't forget that my black tie and cummerbund were in the pocket of my tux, and I promised I'd remember, and walked down the stairs with her, saw her out, and dangled for a minute over the harpsichord.") But, while Buckley's self-congratulation can be marginally palatable when mixed with a story (as in Atlantic High or Airborne), here it's undiluted. So most readers will probably find this tedious at best, sleekly loathsome at worst--especially since, in contrast to the fairly stylish Cruising Speed, it's sloppily written (p. 169: "It was all great fun"; p. 171: "All this was great fun") and virtually without texture.
Pub Date: Aug. 12th, 1983
ISBN: 0316114499
Page count: 262pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1983


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