New York Times Book Review
Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faithby William F. Buckley Jr.
This is the memoir of one man's faith. The renowned social and political commentator, William F. Buckley Jr., turns to a highly personal subject -- his faith. And he tells us the story of his life as a Catholic Christian. "Nearer, My God" is the most reflective, poignant, and searching of Bill Buckley's many books. In the opening chapters he relives his childhood, a loving, funny, nostalgic glimpse into pre-World War II America and England. He speaks about his religious experiences to a world that has changed dramatically. He is unafraid of revealing the most personal side of his faith. He describes, in his distinctive style, the intimacy of a trip to Lourdes, the impact on him of the searing account by Maria Valtorta of the Crucifixion, the ordination of his nephew into the priesthood, and gives a moving account of his mother's death. And there is humor, as Buckley gives a unique, hilarious view of a visit to the Vatican with Malcolm Muggeridge, Charlton Heston, Grace Kelly, and David Niven. Personal though this book is, Buckley has gone to others to examine new perspectives, putting together his own distinguished 'Forum' and leaning on the great literature of the past to illustrate his thinking on contemporary Catholic and Christian issues.
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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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Nearer, My God, is densely written and salted with such words as: animadversion, antimony, minence grise, funicular, *objurgations, piquant (a favorite), *proleptically, solipsism and *zucchetto. The asterisked words were not even listed in my 180,000 word Oxford Pocket American Dictionary. That fact makes me believe that many of the people who bought this book did not finish it, which is a loss for them. Speaking of 'people' there are not many who, like William F. Buckley, Jr., can work the word funicular into everyday conversation and experience. p For this baby-boomer born in the fertile fifties, and growing up watching Bill Buckley on his Firing Line program and making special appearances elsewhere on television, it really was something to get a prolonged look into bits of his personal life. p Nine brothers and sisters, fluent in three languages, a father richer than Croesus raised in multiple family homes in both America and Europe, with nine full time servants could explain his trademark relaxed pose as during interviews or discussions, he seems almost like a wet towel carefully draped over the chair to dry. p And as an adult he filmed a never-seen documentary inside the Sistine Chapel, met with two Popes and beginning in 1959 was able to 'take off' two months each year, to 'write and ski' in Switzerland calling as neighbors, actor David Niven and Princess Grace, who were also friends. In addition to being recruited by the CIA, when the words 'world traveler' are looked up in the encyclopedia, or these days Google, there is a photo of William F. Buckley Jr. looking out at you. p Nearer, My God was one of the very few non-fiction books in which I read every single word, from the tear-page's, 'Praise for William F. Buckley, Jr.'s Nearer My God', squinting at the microdot-sized footnotes, and all the way through Appendix A and B located prior to the twelve pages of the Index. p This is a fascinating, personal and explicit book about why this vastly accomplished man believes as he does. Having been raised in the Lutheran Church (broken away from the Catholic Church in the 1500s) I had a little more insight into Catholicism than another non-Catholic reader might have. p He steps through church history and along the way provides concrete evidence for Man's creation by a loving God. He visits most arguments for and against God and also why, other than being raised in it, he continues to abide with the Catholic magisterium, even after and its major manipulations of various facets of the faith. p While he answers many questions a non-Catholic, or as in my own case, being a lapsed Lutheran, an 'anti'-Catholic might have, he still hasn't convinced me that the Catholic church is the 'One Church'. On many of his points, the answers hinge on the belief that the Pope in Rome is the voice of God, and what that Pope states is gospel truth. To which he himself, might respond in another discussion by citing, 'That that is circular reasoning.' Of course, in actuality, he would use six and seven syllable words, not heard outside of a national spelling bee, to say the same thing. p The last chapter is a tribute to his mother Alois Steiner Buckley, which I loved since so many accomplished and successful men fail to recognize the almost absolute necessity of having a loving mother during childhood. p Nearer, My God An Autobiography of Faith should be read by any well-educated person who is questioning the existence of God, for this book has many answers. All non-Catholic practicing believers should also read it. And it certainly must be read by all Catholics, and as the National Catholic Reporter stated, 'Read it and wince, read it and weep, read it and smile, but read it.'