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Not that our provocateur doesn't have his serious side, too. It shows up in his explorations of his own military envy, asthma, and cluster headaches, but also in some unlikely zones--including a sympathetic profile of Eppie Lederer, better known as agony aunt Ann Landers. (When Eppie tells Buckley that her husband left her, "an eyebrow arches, the right dimple deepens like a Florida sinkhole.") And then there is "My Own Private Sunday School," two pages on talking to his 6-year-old daughter about belief and death. Of course, even here the mischief-maker shines through, since the beginner's Bible Buckley buys is sorely lacking in verbal panache: "The chapter about the Roman discovering Jesus' empty tomb is titled 'Surprise!'--which is sort of cute, even if it does make a pretty crucial New Testament event sound a bit like a panel from Where's Waldo?" Buckley is ever on the hunt for our foibles and endless absurdities; and despite his seemingly straight-up hilarity, his method requires the utmost skill, imagination, and--oddly enough--affection. --Kerry Fried
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