VDARE.com: 10/01/10 – Jared Taylor Remembers Joe Sobran

Jared Taylor Remembers Joe Sobran

Joe Sobran, who

left this world on Sept. 30
, was perhaps the most
brilliant man I have ever known. Not brilliant in all
ways, of course, and even obtuse in some, but in his
power to see the essential, to lay bare hypocrisy, to
capture an idea with a turn of phrase, to mock with
gentle humor, and to treat the heaviest subjects with
the lightest touch, I have never met his equal and never
expect to.

Like so
many others, I first met Joe through his writing,
specifically, his "Pensées: Notes for
the Reactionary of Tomorrow
," which appeared in
the December 31, 1985 issue of
National Review.
 A friend had sent
them to me, but I set them aside. The

article
ran for 35 magazine pages, for heaven`s
sake, and I was put off by the murky title. My friend
insisted, however, and so I first encountered the mind
of Joe Sobran. Today the essay is only slighted dated by
its

Cold-War-era
tone; its central wisdom and insights
will never go stale. Joe cared about permanent things,
and asked questions that demand answers. Here is just
one: "What we
really ought to

ask the liberal
, before we even begin addressing

his agenda
, is this: In
what kind
of society
would he be a conservative?"

Joe was a
very approachable man, however, and it was not long
before we met at his house in a woodsy part of

Arlington, Virginia.
I will never forget two things
about that first visit: the tip in which he lived, and
the sparkle of his conversation. Practically every
square inch of that house was knee deep in newspapers,
books, letters, clothes—all in complete disorder. One
got from room to room through narrow channels where bits
of floor were still visible, but otherwise Joe lived in
a landfill.

Like so
many conversations I had with him since, I wish I had
jotted down the dazzling observations he seemed to throw
off so effortlessly. I remember two:
"The

purpose
of a

college education
is to give you the

correct view of minorities
, and the means to

live as far away from them as possible
."
The
other was a little story, which hinted at where his
interests were heading, and that I will paraphrase as
best I can remember it:

"There are lots
of squirrels out here where I live. They are interesting
little creatures, and I`d like to get to know them
better. I suppose it`s natural for them to be suspicious
of any animal that is so much bigger than they are, but
you just can`t get close to them. They

see anti-squirrilism everywhere
."

Later I
also moved to w:st="on">Virginia, and Joe and I
got better acquainted. We saw each other at conferences
and meetings, and he must have been to my house for
dinner a score of times. My wife grumbled that he came
empty handed and never reciprocated. I tried to explain
to her that there are limits to the entertaining powers
of most middle-aged men, and that she would be risking
her health to set foot in his house, anyway. I was
always the debtor no matter how often he came to dinner.
It was at one of those evenings that I heard another
Sobranism I have often

trotted out
as if it were my own:
"In their

mating and migratory habits,
liberals are
indistinguishable from members of the Ku Klux Klan."

It was this
light touch, this sparkle that, I believe, lifted Joe`s
writing from the merely admirable to the genuinely
great. I write too, but if
I
really care about something,
I get grimly serious,
and the sentences scowl. Not Joe. He cared deeply about
things—Lord, how he cared—but he could write about the
most awful stuff with sentences that smiled. This was a
gift Joe shared with only a very few: men like
H. L.
Mencken
and

Mark Twain
. I rarely envy a man`s writing, but I
envied Joe`s.

There were
swathes of Joe`s life, though, that were unknown
territory to me. It was not that he kept people out; our
interests simply diverged. Joe`s

devotion to the church
, his

concern about abortion,
his interest in w:st="on">Israel, his

veneration of Shakespeare
—these things took him in
his own directions.

On this
last point, though, I remember talking to him about the

sonnets.
I told him I had been baffled in high
school because so many seemed to be

love poems addressed to a man
. I had asked my
English teacher about that, but he gave me some tortured
explanation I don`t even remember. Not Joe. As always,
he went where few would dare. He was among those who
doubted the Stratford-on-Avon man could have been the
real bard, and he had his own candidate:

Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford
—who, he had

concluded,
was homosexual. When Joe`s book on the
Shakespeare authorship question,


Alias Shakespeare
, appeared in 1997, he lamented that try as he might, he couldn`t get
the publisher to use what he was convinced was a
brilliant advertising line:
"He`s queer. He`s
here. He`s

Edward De Vere
."

The great
turning point in Joe`s career, of course, was his
quarrel with
National
Review
and

William F. Buckley, Jr.
Joe believed Buckley had
sacrificed him for cowardly reasons, and he

wrote about it—several times
. He wrote in his usual
deft way, but there was a sting to his words. That is
why I felt a pang when I started yet another column by
Joe about Buckley, in which he wrote he had just learned
Buckley had emphysema and that the outlook was bad. I
was half expecting Joe`s own dulcet version of
"serves the
bastard right,"
but to my surprise and everlasting
admiration, Joe

devoted the column to telling us how fine a man Buckley

was. I knew Buckley only from the back of a lecture
hall, but Joe`s column was a living portrait of
generosity and even nobility. That column was, for me,
an inspiring expression of Joe`s own nobility.

Joe was not
always noble, of course, and as his health declined and
his circumstances grew straitened this could not help
but narrow his perspective. But nothing could keep Joe
from being Joe. I had not seen him for some time before
he died, but I hear that he kept his courage and dignity
to the end, that he died ready, confident that he would
meet his Maker. I am confident that I will never meet
his like again.


Jared
Taylor (
email
him) is editor of


American Renaissance
and the author of Paved
With Good Intentions: The Failure of Race Relations in
Contemporary America
.

(For
Peter Brimelow`s review, click


here
.)