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"String of Pearls" by Priscilla Buckley

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String of PearlsIn his book On Writing, Stephen King proposes that writing is a form of telepathy. His proposition suggests some mysterious properties for something as prosaic as the printed word, yet he is essentially correct. The printed word allows us to communicate with people we have never met, and more importantly with those who have gone beyond. I was getting close to the end of Priscilla Buckley's String of Pearls when I heard the news that William F. Buckley had died. As an admirer of Mr. Buckley, I had been looking forward to reading the afterward he had written for his sister's book. Now I realized that when I read this afterward, he would be communicating with me from beyond the grave. This thought gave me new appreciation for power of the printed word.

William F. Buckley was Priscilla's younger brother and founder of National Review, a conservative weekly periodical which made him the father of modern conservatism. He was also one of the most talented writers our nation has seen. Now from beyond the grave, I was able to read the writing of this talented man.

This is not to demean Priscilla, or as her friends call her, "Pitts." Priscilla was a journalist long before her brother finished school, and was likely the inspiration for some of his work. She had a challenging, exciting career in Paris working for UPI when she decided to give it all up to go to work as managing editor of National Review, a job she held for 50 years.

The title of this book is evidently a double entendre--a guess, since pearls are never mentioned in the narrative. However, a string of pearls was and still is a wardrobe staple for the professional woman. A "string of pearls" must also refer to the format of the narrative. It is a collection of vignettes presented in a logical if not always chronological order. As the reader progresses through the stories, he or she realizes that these stories are indeed gems, from tales of outrageous shenanigans in the newsroom to the fascinating account of the battle of Dien Bien Phu, which preceded the French exit from Vietnam.

The stories are presented simply and directly, with a news person's eye for correctness and clarity. The stories progress toward more and more fascinating topics until the reader reaches the end, feeling a little disappointed that it is over and realizing that this book was indeed a string of pearls.


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