WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY WRITES IN Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography (Regnery, 2004) that he won't ever write an autobiography. Instead he offers this collection of 50 personal essays, written over the past 50 years, calling it "a narrative survey of my life, at work and play."
The organization of the book is as personal as the essays. First come reminiscences of a childhood in Sharon, Conn., that was the stuff of a boy's fantasy: pheasant hunting in the morning, homeschooling at the hand of tutors and a French-speaking nanny, and horseback riding in the afternoons, followed by a dip in the pool-and don't forget sailboat racing several days a week in the summer. Then come chapters containing a speech about his son, an essay about his father's love of wine, and another about his own wine-buying habit.
In any collection of essays, some will be stronger than others. That's true here. Several essays could do with more historical context. Some figures, like Whittaker Chambers, who were well known when the essay was written, have faded into obscurity. But Mr. Buckley's life has been so interesting and his influence on American culture so great that following his wide-ranging passions-politics, music, skiing, writing, sailing-is fun and instructive.