The first twelve pages of Cruising Speed characterize the author’s way of life and immediately establish the tone of the book. Implicit are the Buckley attitudes which are so endearing to some readers, so infuriating to others. He introduces himself to the reader as a man who owns at least two homes, who goes everywhere in a chauffeured limousine, who has a loyal maid traveling with him, a loyal and efficient secretary juggling his commitments and correspondence, and loyal and skilled researchers constantly feeding him crucial information; thus, he is freed to maintain a virtually nonstop schedule of writing, editing, lecturing, and debating. He is, in short, a rich and influential man (a wag once characterized him as the champion of the overdog). So strong is the egalitarian strain in the American character that the reader is accustomed to people of wealth and influence either downplaying the extent of their privilege or making an oblique apology for it. Buckley never does either. He matter-of-factly recounts how his father abruptly sent the five youngest children to English boarding schools because he found their mumbling speech exasperating. He reminisces at some length about his brilliant undergraduate days at Yale University. He writes easily of his annual skiing trips to Gstaad. His writing persona is that of a man totally comfortable with himself.
The book is topical, but, because it is representative of Buckley’s thought, behavior,...
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