Buckley: The Right Word

Buckley: The Right Word

by William F. Buckley Jr., Samuel S. Vaughan, Samuel S. Vaughan

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Buckley’s provocative observations on the use and abuse of English, gathered for the first time in a single volume - a “veritable cornucopia of language and logic that belongs in every library” (Library Journal). Edited by Samuel S. Vaughan.


Buckley’s provocative observations on the use and abuse of English, gathered for the first time in a single volume - a “veritable cornucopia of language and logic that belongs in every library” (Library Journal). Edited by Samuel S. Vaughan.

Editorial Reviews

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Buckley applies a jewelr's eye to the English language and deftly exposes its beauty, brilliance and clarity.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Vaughan, who has edited most of Buckley's books since 1976, has "selected, assembled and edited with an introduction and sundry comments" a sprawling, annotated scrapbook of Buckley's nonpolitical jottings on the subject of writing English well. Topics range from notes he's sent people who have dared to correct his grammar, to letters to old friends and enemies on matters dealing with English usage, to book reviews, interviews, selected columns, essays and even obituaries, the last of which are especially flavorful. The book's conclusion is worthy of Dr. Johnson himself, a 100-page "lexicon" of words and phrases-partita, paternalistic, paucity, pedagogical-used over the years by Buckley. Much of this book has already appeared in print scattered over a lifetime of publishing, but Buckley's admirers will be delighted by the generous sampling of the author's correspondence. Vaughan's notes, introductions and running commentary more than do the job of holding together this sometimes unwieldy collection. (Dec.)
Library Journal
Vaughan, currently editor-at-large for Random House, has edited nearly all of Buckley's 35 books since 1976. In this collection, he showcases Buckley's "language in action" rather than focusing on his politics. Vaughan has included Buckley's pieces on the uses and abuses of language, reviews, letters, and journalism, among many other things. Whether responding to letters to National Review, being interviewed, or skewering a reviewer, Buckley is prolific and provocative, influential and infuriating, and always intellectually stimulating. In an appendix, there is a lexicon of words defined and used by the master grammarian. -Cathy Sabol, Northern Virginia Community Coll., Manassas
James J. Kilpatrick
What an epiphany it is, to share his eudaemonia! I am quite undone. No kidding. -- National Review
Kirkus Reviews
A whimsical miscellany that is essentially what Vaughan (Buckley's editor at Doubleday), in his introduction, calls it, a "book on language," although it does not hold itself opprobrious, reprehensible, or peccant for wandering off topic.

Letters, essays, interviews, speeches, and columns by National Review editor Buckley (Brothers No More, 1995, etc.), along with some letters written back to him, explore subjects as varied as the origin of Buckley's fictional spy Blackford Oakes, subjunctives, Norman Mailer, and the Roman Catholic Church's abandonment of the Latin mass. Of course, Buckley does hold forth on fine points of English usage, but even he has his limit, as demonstrated when one correspondent, after taking exception to Buckley's usage of "momentarily," explores various "sleazy blunders in word usage." Buckley's response: "Aw, lay off, fellas." Such moments of humor, generously sprinkled throughout, do much to give the book its appeal. For example, Buckley experiments with translation software by using it to render two brief notes into French and then back into English, with predictably hilarious results. Of the interviews, there is a particularly memorable one with Jorge Luis Borges; discussing his admiration for English, the great writer notes that its Latin and Germanic roots give it "two registers." There is a group of reviews, including one of Henry James's travel writings, which Buckley adores (the prose is "so resplendent it will sweep you off your feet"), and one of the movie The Right Stuff, which, he says, lacks the "leavening humor" that Tom Wolfe's writing brought to the subject. In a chapter of obituaries, Buckley pays respect to a range of people, from Claire Boothe Luce to his own mother. An appendix of "Buckley lexicons" will attract only those burning to know how Buckley uses terms such as "matrix" or "pertinacity."

In all, an assortment to entertain even some language lovers who find Buckley's politics less than amusing.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Harvest Book Series
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.21(d)

What People are saying about this

James Kilpatrick
For any lover of the English language, The Right Word is surely the nicest Christmas present that could be imagined.

Meet the Author

William F. Buckley Jr. is the founder of National Review and was the host of what was television's longest-running program, Firing Line. He was recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The author of thirteen other novels, including Spytime and Nuremberg: The Reckoning, he lives in Connecticut.

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