New York Avatar No. 7, p. 18, August, 1968

Buckley & Mailer


About William F. Buckley Jr.'s program Firing Line with Norman Mailer telecast in Boston July 6th, probably telecast in New York at an earlier date.

Seeing Buckley and Mailer on the tube yesterday, I can't get over it. The greatest representation of the two extremes I've seen in a long time. Conservative meets liberal, right meets loft, before meets after. Buckley didn't know what the fuck Mailer was talking about, it just jammed his computer, he even had to resort to childish insults to try and keep up his end. But Mailer forgave him, and went on.

Buckley represents every perfect conceptual structure the American way of life is based on refined to a fine, delicate machinery. Push a button and the right answer always pops out. Everything that is fed into him is reorganized into a perfect statement of the same thing, anything that can't be organized into that statement is automatically clicked into the 'reject' mechanism where it is then reconstructed into a statement under one of several categories, 'communism, nonsense, or defensive mechanism', and then returned, in that form, to its author. Mailer's steady stream of reject material was just too much for Buckley's computer to take, it started smoking. Computers don't get mad, they just smoke when they're overloaded. Buckley is a computer, Mailer is a man. A man can only be categorized and computerized to a certain extent, the greater part of him lies out of definition. Greatness can be recognized only. That is why Buckley went all to pieces when Mailer spoke of the 'greatness' he saw in Castro. Buckley could only see the un-American activities accredited to the man, Castro. He could only see him as far as he could define his actions. Mailer could look right at him, like a child, and see a great force, an inner strength, a fearlessness that had nothing to do with right or wrong. This is the sadness of Buckley and all that he represents, it cannot possibly recognize anything greater than itself for it takes all that it sees and reduces it to a lifeless, sterile set of rules and regulations and anything that can't be comfortably fit into that pattern is automatically discarded, New life always comes in new clothes, new discovery always defies old concepts, Buckley cannot possibly learn anything new until he's willing to let go of the old.

He prides himself on his fine intellect and his liberal view of all the things he doesn't really 'approve' of, he truly believes he has an open mind. He is open, you can say anything to him, but he has only one thing to say to you, and he is a master at finding ways to say it. I love Buckley, but he makes me very sad, he's completely mastered the art of living in prison but Mailer's mastered the art of what you do after you get out, and Buckley doesn't even know there is an out. When he sees a free man all he can do is try and stuff him into his own little prison and then point out how poorly he functions there. I wonder why he does that, I mean what is he trying to prove, that he's right and his subject is wrong? I wouldn't think he would have to do that, at least not if he was actually satisfied with his great knowledge. Maybe he is looking for more, maybe he is trying to get somebody to burn up his computer for him so he can get out, maybe he just hasn't found somebody with enough truth and conviction to free him. Certainly when he met Ginsberg there was no chance for that. Ginsberg is a lot free-er man than Buckley but his freedom isn't near as together as Buckley's confinement. When Leary was up against him it almost made one want to live where Buckley lives rather than play where Leary plays, there was something admirable about Buckley's well thought out structures even though they didn't go anywhere. I mean you've got to give the man a lot of credit just for the time and effort he's put into developing and perfecting his theories of life, it's gonna take a whale of an understanding to make him see how much more he could be. I guess I really do respect the man, even though I want to change him. I respect him because he's so good at what he does, he certainly made Norman Mailer say a lot of beautiful things, and he has a lot of charm, and he's smart as a whip. I think we'll probably be good friends someday.