Prefatory Note: Our time here on Earth being finite, I have never been on Facebook, Tweeted, Twittered, Skyped, Snap-grammed or whatever the hell it's called. But as an author trying to hawk books, I was finally persuaded that continuing not to have a website was obtuse and even defiantly fuddy-duddy.
While preparing the website, my attention was directed to my entry in Wikipedia. I had never seen it before. Surfing the net for mentions of oneself means that somewhere along the line, one has taken the wrong turn. But now I learned, among other things, that I was born on Christmas Eve and am a Canadian citizen.
The first assertion is off by three months; the second by 100 percent, fond as I am of Canada. The entry proceeds from there with errors too numerous (and boring) to specify. Attempts to correct these were rejected by the invisible clerisy of Wikipedia on the grounds that I, subject of the entry, am an insufficient "source."
My time on earth feeling even more finite as I enter my seventh decade, I prefer to spend what hours remain to me not rummaging for my birth certificate or beseeching the Government in Ottawa to provide an affidavit of non-citizenship.
So the following is here not for the purpose of boring the reader (though it is certainly adequate to that task) but rather to provide "sources" to satisfy the stern keepers of the tablets of Wikipedia. Over to you.
Christopher Taylor Buckley was born in New York City on September 28, 1952. His parents were William F. Buckley, Jr. and Patricia Taylor Buckley.
Christopher Buckley is not Christopher Buckley the California poet; nor is he Chris (sometimes "Christopher") Buckley the Beijing bureau chief of the New York Times. But this Christopher Buckley stipulates that he wishes he had the poetical ability of the former and the reportorial skills of the latter.
His late father, William F. Buckley, Jr., was William F. Buckley, Jr., about whom you have surely heard. His late mother, Patricia Taylor, was born in Vancouver, British Colombia. She evolved into "the chic and stunning Mrs. William F. Buckley, Jr." (Woman's Wear Daily), a leading figure of New York City society.
William F. Buckley Jr.'s father was born in San Diego, Texas in 1881, the son of John Buckley, sheep farmer and sheriff (Democrat) of Duval County. His close friend and associate was Pat Garrett, the lawman of legend who shot Billy the Kid.
Patricia Taylor's father was Austin Cotterell Taylor, born in Toronto in 1889. He married Kathleen Elliott of Winnipeg, whose father was chief of the provincial police of Manitoba.
In 1917, Austin Taylor was commissioned by the Imperial War Munitions Board to go west to the frontier province of British Colombia, and procure a reliable supply of wood with which to build RAF fighter planes for The Great War raging in Europe. With his partner H.R. MacMillan, he pioneered the Sitka spruce logging industry in British Columbia.
"Major" Taylor went on to create several fortunes, in gold mining, lumber, shipyards, and ranching. His thoroughbred racehorse Indian Broom placed third in the 1936 Kentucky Derby. In the final race sequence in the film "Seabiscuit," the horse Seabiscuit narrowly beats to the wire is Indian Broom. This made Taylor's grandson feel awfully guilty rooting for Seabiscuit.
Christopher Buckley grew up in Stamford, Connecticut. He was educated by the Benedictine monks of Portsmouth Abbey School in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. He has been a disappointment to them ever since, and certainly feels guilty about that.
Between high school and college he spent a year working his way around the world as deck boy aboard a Norwegian tramp freighter. He returned from that experience with a tattoo, to the delight of his parents.
In 1971, he entered Jonathan Edwards College at Yale University. There he studied under Richard Sewall, William Zinsser, Loudon Wainwright, Jessica Mitford and Kai Erikson. He worked on the Yale Daily News in the happy company of such well-known journalists as John Tierney of the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani, also of the New York Times, and Lloyd Grove, of the Daily Beast.
In senior year, he was elected to Skull and Bones, the elite secret society that rules the world, to the great annoyance of conspiracy theorists. He somehow graduated cum laude and was Class Historian, leading to a mortifying episode recounted in his (plug alert) attractively packaged and reasonably-priced new book, But Enough About You.
He was hired as an associate editor at Esquire Magazine and became managing editor at age 24. There he worked under editors (and serial mentors) Lee Eisenberg, Byron Dobell, Clay Felker and Rust Hills.
In 1975, in the company of his father and friends, he sailed across the Atlantic from Miami to Gibraltar aboard a 60-foot schooner, Cyrano. That adventure is recounted in his father's bestselling book, Airborne. He and his father later sailed across the Pacific, from Honolulu to New Guinea, and again once more across the Atlantic. Those voyages are described in his father's books Racing Through Paradise and Windfall, in Christopher's own memoir, Losing Mum and Pup.
In 1980, he returned to sea, as Ordinary Seaman aboard a U.S. merchant vessel Transcolombia. He made eight (rather long) winter crossings of the North Atlantic. That experience formed the basis of his first book, Steaming To Bamboola: The World of a Tramp Freighter, published by the late Tom Congdon. Congdon, one of the great gentlemen book editors of the old school, remains slightly more famous for having published another book about the sea, titled Jaws.
In 1981, Buckley became speechwriter to U.S. Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush. That two-year experience is limned in the essay "The Vishnu," in his (plug alert #2) new book But Enough About You. It led to writing his first novel, The White House Mess, a parody of a White House memoir. (The double-entendre title derives from the name of the commissary at the White House, administered by the U.S. Navy.) Mess became a New York Times bestseller simultaneously with a novel by his father, occasioning an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the first instance of father-son joint appearance on a bestseller list.
In Washington in 1984, he married Lucy Steuart Gregg, a CIA officer and daughter of Buckley's White House colleague, Donald P. Gregg, a highly respected and decorated 33-year CIA officer. Gregg later became President George H.W. Bush's ambassador to South Korea.
Christopher Buckley's connections to CIA are a bit spooky, including as they do his wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, father, two aunts and George H.W. Bush, one-time director of CIA. William F. Buckley Jr.'s CIA boss in Mexico City in the early 1950's was E. Howard Hunt, of Watergate notoriety. That friendship, which acquired a certain critical mass during the fraught early hours of Watergate, is described in some detail in his son's memoir, Losing Mum and Pup.
He and Lucy produced two splendid children, Caitlin Gregg Buckley, born 1988; and William Conor Buckley, born 1992. Caitlin "Cat" graduated from the College of Charleston (SC) and works at Vanity Fair magazine in New York. Conor is a 2014 honors graduate of Tufts University, majoring in music. At graduation, he received the university's "Outstanding Contribution to Performance" prize.
Buckley has another child, Jonathan, born out of wedlock. He has blossomed into a fine, intelligent and talented young man. Christopher and Lucy amicably divorced in 2011.
In 2012, Christopher married Dr. Katherine "Katy" Close, of Fort Mill, South Carolina. Dr. Close, mother of four splendid children, is a humanitarian physician with advanced degrees in public health and tropical medicine. She volunteers at the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer in Deschappelles, Haiti; as well as a medical school in Axum, Ethiopia and at various Americares clinics in Connecticut.
Katy's mother, Anne Springs Close, is mother of eight, a philanthropist and explorer, still going strong at age 88 in 2014. She is the last person still living to have flown trans-Atlantic aboard the zeppelin Hindenberg.
Anne's father, the late Elliott Springs, was an ace fighter pilot in World War I (11 kills) and the author of a bestselling novel, War Birds, published anonymously. It is possible, even likely, that Katy's grandfather flew planes built with wood supplied by Christopher's grandfather.
Christopher Buckley lived in Washington, DC for 29 years. During those years, and beyond, he wrote for many publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Financial Times, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The Washington Monthly, National Review, The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly, Time, Architectural Digest, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and others.
He has written sixteen books. Most are satirical novels. He also wrote a play, "Campion," about the 16th-century English Jesuit martyr, which was produced at the Williamstown Theater Festival in 1987. His best-known novel is probably Thank You For Smoking, published in 1993. In 2006 it was adapted for the screen and directed by Jason Reitman, now a highly successful Academy Award-nominated director (Juno, Up In The Air). The movie was produced by David Sacks, an entrepreneur whose numerous credits include the invention of PayPal.
Thank You For Smoking began a long and happy association with editor Jonathan Karp, who thereafter edited and published all of Buckley's books. "Mr. Karp" as "Mr. Buckley" calls him, is currently editor in chief and publisher of Simon and Schuster. Much as Mr. Buckley would like to take credit for Mr. Karp's meteoric career, he acknowledges that this would be desperate. To bring things full circle, one of Mr. Karp's great successes was the best-seller Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand.
Mr. Buckley does, however, take credit for bringing together Mr. Karp and his late friend Christopher Hitchens. After Mr. Karp began his imprint Twelve at Hachette, the second book he published was Hitchens' atheist magnum opus, God Is Not Great, which became a mega-bestseller and industry phenomenon, much to the annoyance of God.
Though most of his books are generically satirical, Buckley disagrees with the notion, expressed by earnest and often morose persons, insisting that literature must be serious, capital S. Buckley is surely not the first to point out that satire is another way of being serious. But whatever.
In 1989, he was hired by the late Malcolm Forbes to start up and edit a lifestyle magazine supplement to Forbes. That magazine became Forbes FYI, now ForbesLife and began a happy 17 year-long association with the Forbes family. A number of the pieces in (plug alert #3) But Enough About You were first published in FYI.
Buckley counts himself fortunate indeed to have worked for some really great editors. First among these is Tina Brown, editrix, mentorette and bosom friend. He -- oh for heaven's sake -- I first wrote for Tina in the 1980's when she was revivifying Vanity Fair. I was also lucky to write for her husband, legendary editor Harry Evans. (Now Sir Harold.) The cover story, and cover photo of the first issue of his newly created magazine Conde Nast Traveler (1987) carried my by-line. Some years later, when Harry was editor-in-chief of Random House, he and his protegé Jonathan Karp took a chance on a manuscript titled Thank You For Smoking.
As editor of The New Yorker, Tina published some 50 or so pieces of mine, mostly "Shouts and Murmurs" back-pagers. I wrote for her magazine Talk, then again in the fall of 2008 when she rolled out her new website The Daily Beast. This inaugurated my short, happy career as a blogger.
Unthrilled at the prospect of a McCain-Palin administration, and admiring of the political fresh prince of Bel Air, Barack Obama, I wrote a blog in which I said that, along with numerous other brethren "conservative" pundits, I would vote for Mr. Obama. Oh dear, oh dear.
An editor at the Beast (could it have been Tina, I wonder?) titled it "Sorry Dad, But I'm Voting For Obama." I immediately demanded that the headline be altered, on the grounds that this was hardly the point; and anyway "Dad" was now eight months dead and beyond giving a shit about who I was voting for. The headline was never altered. Only now, six years later, do I fully perceive my naivèté in presuming that my arguments -- for arguments they were, as opposed to attitude -- might be taken on merit, rather than in contrapuntal parental perspective.
The result was a tempest in a teapot. The teapot was enlarged when the editor and publisher of National Review asked me to resign from the column I had been writing for NR, the magazine founded and nurtured by dear old "Dad." The media, bless it, loves nothing more than a good internecine rumpus on the Right. The story went, as they say, viral, beyond reach of antibiotics.
But the dogs bark, the caravan moves on.
Shortly after, I published a memoir about my parents, entitled Losing Mum and Pup. I loved both my parents fiercely, right down to the finish line. But Ozzie and Harriett, life with Mum and Pup was not. As noted in the opening pages of Losing, I never intended to write a memoir. But having undergone the serial thundershocks of losing both of my (cliché alert) larger-than-life parents in under a calendar year, I found myself one morning opening up the laptop and writing it. To paraphrase that caveat: I am for better or worse a writer, and when the universe hands you such material as Life with Mum and Pup, not to write about it seems an act of conscious avoidance.
The book went on to become my highest ranker on the bestseller lists. (Though in aggregate sales, Smoking slightly outdistances it.) It continues to sell, and most weeks bring a welcome letter from someone it has touched.
Given its universal theme (the inevitable loss of those who gave us life), it's possible Losing may be the book that will remain in print after the worms have done feasting. I smile (a bit tightly) at the irony: having spent my professional life trying to become something more than just "William Buckley's son," the book I may be remembered for is the one about being his son. So the joke's on me. But I wouldn't have traded being his son -- or hers -- for any amount of success.