BOOKS: BUCKLEY'S SECRET GARDEN

A MODEST PORTRAIT OF FAITH THAT TELLS LESS THAN ALL

That polysyllabilistic panjandrum of the American right, William F. Buckley Jr., is even more devoted to his Roman Catholic faith than to his conservative political principles. Yet writing about that faith has not been easy for him. In 1992 he started but soon abandoned a book with the working title Why I Am a Catholic. Now Buckley has tried again--and his discomfort in writing about something so personal as religious belief is still apparent.

Nearer, My God (Doubleday; 313 pages; $24.95) is less a formal "autobiography of faith," as the subtitle has it, than a pastiche: part memoir, part commentary on...