I landed my first job in journalism when I was 20 years old. It was my second year as an undergraduate at the University of Sydney. I’d written an article for Quadrantabout the unceremonious and unconscionable firing of my friend, mentor, and thesis supervisor Barry Spurr. (Incidentally, I learned from a recent Prufrock newsletter that Barry has been appointed Quadrant’s new literary editor.)
About a week after the article was published, the editor asked me to stop by Quadrant’s offices and offered me a job. He was taking a leave of absence and was on the lookout for an ambitious young wordslinger to help the new guy find his bearings.
As it happens, the new guy was John O’Sullivan, who succeeded William F. Buckley at National Review in 1988. He’s the finest writer and editor I’ve ever met, and as kind and cultured a man as ever lived. I could write a long essay lavishing praise on him, and I will someday.
John was also (to my mind) a kind of second-class relic. I’d been a devotee of WFB since middle school, and this new career in journalism gave me reason to indulge my obsession during business hours. Imagine my thrill when, at an after-work drinkie-do, John said I reminded him of a young Bill Buckley. Maybe it was the fourth gimlet doing its work on my tired brain, but I had to choke back tears.