July 11, 2008

Excerptable

I'm greatly enjoying Reid Buckley's memoir of his family. It's a very tasty read:
A press agent approached him. "Mr. Buckley, for a fee of three hundred dollars a month I'll guarantee that you and your wife and children will appear once a week in society columns and at least monthly in social magazines."

I pity that man. I pity his having exposed himself to the ice-blue fullness of contempt in eyes of uncompromising candor. "I'll pay you the same amount to keep me and my family out of the papers."

Father was next to broke. It was going to take him 18 years to come back. But hunger for personal publicity, Father felt, showed that a person was unable to approve of himself on his own terms, lacking in the strength and certitude of his own worth.* That's poverty. Where he was reared, plain survival tended to prove a person and tended to translate into prosperity. Economic class distinctions were rare. Success was like a fine quarter-horse stallion: to be admired or envied, not, should one happen to possess it, to be ashamed of. Money was good to have; it was for building beautiful horses and raising packs of children and giving them the best education. But the worth of a man as a person was what counted. As children, we were taught neither to fear material poverty nor to despite riches.

* - In this and in so much else (including integrity), he was the diametric opposite of old Joe Kennedy, determining the very different stars that his children chased.
Wow. Everything in that excerpt feels so counter-cultural. From the loathing of publicity, to the certitude of one's own worth, to the lack of fear of material poverty - it feels like something from a very different era.

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