Epitaphs / 5 posts found

William Buckley: A Television Persona Passes

by Tom Watson
Comments are off for this post.

William F. Buckley may be twisting painfully in the eternal hellfires right about now, condemned for rejecting civil rights in a cynical wager against his own views of liberty, but his passing does recall a type of conservative who would gladly make a public argument on the relative merits – and not try to merely shout the opposition down with bully talk and cheap sloganeering.

His death also removes another one of those classic 60s and 70s television personalities from the talk show set, a singular face and voice and style that those of us who can feel those years mourn the dearth of these days. From his half recline, one arm thrown back over a corner of the chair, a pen clutched in the other, Buckley unpacked slow-moving questions on Firing Line – big slow righty curves compared to today’s ‘roid-raged speedballers – and he inhabited a public world of curling cigarette smoke in black and white, talking world that included names like Mailer, and Vidal and Capote.

A Life Well-Remembered

by Tom Watson
Comments are off for this post.
Every year, I find myself engrossed in the New York Times Magazine‘s collection of brief epitaphs of Americans, famous and not-so-much, who died during the previous year. But when I pulled the issue from the blue plastic wrapper this morning and thumbed through it, there was a stronger, more personal reaction to one remembrance. Matt Bai’s piece captures Steve Gilliard’s life beautifully, and leans on his contribution to a national discussion from his perch in East Harlem. As readers know, I was a big Gilliard fan – we were acquaintances and occasional correspondents. Steve was generosity personified, generous with links […]

A Loss in the Family

by Tom Watson
Comments are off for this post.
I’m sure newcritics bloggers and readers will join me in sending condolences to one of our regulars. Dennis Perrin, whose sister-in-law was tragically murdered Friday in what seems to have been a random act of violence. His post on the tragedy is here, but I was particularly moved by this excerpt: Whenever tragedies like this happen, the survivors always paint the deceased in bright colors. To be expected and not to be dismissed. But please trust me friends when I tell you that Holly was one of the sweetest, most positive individuals I’ve ever known. Holly faced some serious adversity […]

Steve Gilliard, 1966-2007

by Tom Watson
Comments are off for this post.
One of the great voices of the shared Internet is gone: blogger Steve Gilliard (who blogged here at newcritics before his illness) died today at age 41. I didn’t know Steve very well personally, but he was a brother in the virtual sense. His voice was entirely his – a true iconoclast with a strong, unyielding point of view. We met a couple of times. Mainly we corresponded in email, in comments, on his blog, on my blog. Just before his illness, he agreed to join our little cultural blogging group here. I treasure the fact that his name appears […]

Kurt Vonnegut’s Greatest Generation

by Tom Watson
Comments are off for this post.

Kurt VonnegutKurt Vonnegut proposed an alternative version of World War II glory, a writhing and brutal portrait of internal turmoil and loss and madness that manifested its horror in a seemingly charming and picaresque line: foot-soldier Billy Pilgrim had become “unstuck in time.”

Slaughterhouse-Five belongs to the rarified antiwar prose of the post-war writing generation that includes Joseph Heller and Norman Mailer, the brand of story-telling that went beyond the “war is hell – but damn, it’s a great story” method of pulp fiction and John Wayne. He wrote about inner damage in the guise of science fiction and fantasy; Vonnegut created a terrifying alternative universe created on the ruins of still-living souls who had witnessed first-hand the worst men can do to other men.

But damn, if it wasn’t accessible to a 14-year-old. The combination of humour, and sex, and sci-fi, and words put Slaughterhouse-Five on every adolescent reading list my generation; it didn’t have to be assigned – it was sought out.

When news Vonnegut’s death broke early this morning, I immediately remembered that period of discovery – of revelation – that reading Slaughterhouse-Five and the canon of Vonnegut novels brought on. Those precious, quiet moments alone with the words and the realization that freedom of thought was entirely real, and that some people explored that freedom to the fullest.