The Buckley Prose Style

THE BUCKLEY PROSE STYLE…Andrew Sullivan on William F. Buckley:

I know we shouldn’t speak ill of the dead — but am I the only person who found Buckley close to unreadable a lot of the time? I never read his fiction, but his nonfiction was packed [with] endless sentences, ridiculously long words, and meaning that sometimes took several reads to excavate. I don’t know how many times I finished a Buckley column with the thought: what on earth was he trying to say?

Actually, that’s often how I felt too, and it wasn’t his vocabulary so much as it was his fondness for a veering, circuitous style that never quite seemed willing to stop poking around the edges of his ideas and finally stake out a position. But I only occasionally read his columns, and even that only recently. I always figured that maybe his writing just wasn’t as sharp as it had been 20 or 30 years ago.

But maybe not. Was he always like that? Is this going to unleash an avalanche of people who take a deep breath and finally admit that they too had a hard time figuring out what Buckley was trying to say much of the time?

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