William F. Buckley Jr. died yesterday at the age of 82. Best known as the founder of influential conservative magazine The National Review, Buckley wrote more than 50 books, including two last year: a political novel called The Rake and a history of the magazine called Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription. Then there were his many columns, which The New York Times surmised “would fill 45 more medium-sized books.”
Buckley wielded his vast vocabulary and piercing wit like a velvet-encased sledgehammer, and no matter what you thought of his conservative politics, it’s impossible to say that he wasn’t a man of eloquence and insight who conveyed his perceptions of the world through the written word with an acute passion.
And he wasn’t afraid to rankle his conservative buddies: A CityBeat colleague reminded me that “the world has lost its most persuasive proponent for the legalization of marijuana,” and linked to this Buckley essay from 2004.
Beyond his copious writing endeavors, I was always fascinated by his odd physical appearance — what’s up with the darting eyes and lizard-like tongue? — and studied, almost belabored speaking manner, which brought to mind a college professor going through some sort of mini-exorcism.
Buckley, who suffered from diabetes and emphysema, was apparently found slumped over at his desk yesterday, writing to the last.
Below is Buckley’s most recent appearance on The Charlie Rose Show, which he visited many times over the years.
And check this brief clip from Buckley’s famous late-’60s TV debates with Gore Vidal.