Who was the ugliest of them all?

The folks at National Review Online are culling the archives of National Review for highlights from years past. NRO’s weekly email with links to newly posted highlights from a given issue can be had simply for the asking. Readers can sign up for all of NRO’s newsletters here.
This morning NRO has sent out the late, great, still-missed William Buckley’s brilliant 1977 review/essay on Lillian Hellman’s bogus memoir Scoundrel Time, a book that came with an introduction by former NR contributor gone wrong Garry Wills. Buckley writes:

Though the book is slender, the design is grandly staged, in self-esteem as in presumption. To begin with, here is someone described in the introduction to her own book as the greatest woman playwright in American history. Now this is probably true. But a) Isn’t that on the order of celebrating the tallest building in Wichita, Kansas? and b) Doesn’t an introduction to oneself in such terms, in one’s own book, by one’s own chosen introducer, interfere with the desired perception of oneself as a hardworking artist ignorant, indeed disdainful, of the outside world of power-plays and flackery? and c) Aren’t the auspices the most alien for making sexual distinctions? I mean, Garry Wills, the Last Kid, talking about the Greatest Woman Playwright as one would talk about the downhill champion on the one-legged ski team?

You will want to read (or reread) it all.


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