How William F. Buckley Put Liberal America on The Firing Line

For some odd reason I had not really listened to the Federalist Radio Hour until just recently.  This despite being a huge fan of The Transom and all things Ben Domenech. But I am now tuning in on a regular basis.  He has had some fascinating authors on for extended conversations and it is refreshing in today’s soundbite world.

Speaking of that, I just finished listening to his conversation with Heather Hendershot, professor of film and media at MIT, and the author of the new book, “Open to Debate: How William F. Buckley Put Liberal America on The Firing Line.”  It is worth a listen.

The Tyranny of Cliches by Jonah Goldberg

I will admit up-front that I am far from an unbiased observer when it comes to Jonah Goldberg.  I am a fan.  And I have been lucky enough to get to know him some over the years and consider him a friend.  So feel free to factor that in to what follows.

But even with that caveat, there is a small part of me that is disappointed in his latest book The Tyranny of Clichés.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a quick, entertaining and informative book; full of useful arguments, insights and food for thought.  At its most basic it is a challenge to conservatives to fight back and not allow the left in this country to continue to make lazy, ideological loaded statements and arguments in the name of pragmatism and a fake “just the facts, ma’am” attitude.

For more on the book’s message and arguments, and on my rather subtle disappointment, keep reading.

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WFB Bio, James Madison & Post-Harry Potter

Terry Teachout finds the most recent William F. Buckley bio (Buckley: William F. Buckley Jr. and the Rise of American Conservatismdisappointing:

Sure enough, Buckley is as fair-minded a study of its subject’s career as you could possibly expect from a contributor to The Nation and Tikkun. It deals bluntly but honestly with such difficult topics as his equivocal views on civil rights, and it gives him full credit for having purged the conservative movement of such “loonies” (Buckley’s word) as the members of the John Birch Society. Above all, Bogus recognizes that “Buckley and his colleagues changed America’s political realities,” both by making conservatism intellectually and socially respectable and by turning the GOP into something not far removed from a genuine conservative party.

But Buckley is too soberly written to be of interest to the average reader, and the only full-scale biography, John B. Judis’s William F. Buckley, Jr.: Patron Saint of Conservatives (1988), is both outdated and overly partisan. The best thing published so far about Buckley is Richard Brookhiser’s Right Time, Right Place: Coming of Age with William F. Buckley Jr., and the Conservative Movement (2009), a sympathetic, at times startlingly candid memoir that describes him more vividly than anything other than Buckley’s own autobiographical volumes, of which Cruising Speed: A Documentary(1971) is the first and best. What is now needed is an up-to-date biography written by someone with the twin gifts of literary portraiture and historical perspective. This, alas, isn’t it.

Frustrating because I was looking forward to reading it (and probably still will).

Speaking of Richard Brookhiser, Richard Beeman finds his bio of James Madison worth reading:

The amount of scholarship chronicling these events is immense, and although Brook­hiser is somewhat sparing in acknowledging his debts to historians who have preceded him, his sprightly narrative will serve as an entertaining introduction for those who are making their first acquaintance with Madison. Moreover, Brookhiser’s book is a useful corrective to some of the recent works in the fields of political science and law that place excessive emphasis on Madison the theorist.

For more on Brookhiser from my perspective, see the related articles links below.

And from a completely different perspective, Eloisa James brings a book to my attention (Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact By A. J. HARTLEY) that I think will be added to the ever-growing TBR pile:

Post Harry Potter, we can all sketch the outlines of a paranormal private school novel. Darwen Arkwright is a far odder and more creative addition to the genre than I have read in years. Darwen has powers of a sort…but he also has the ability to behave like a bumbler, like a dunce, like a grieving boy. The book never relies on paranormal flourishes alone to carry the reader’s interest. A. J. Hartley shows an uncanny, brilliant ability to shape the inner life of an unmoored child, who realizes that the worst thing of all is that there’s no one to be disappointed in him.

This sounds like a great fit for me and a potential read aloud book for my daughter.

William F. Buckley (Christian Encounters) by Jeremy Lott

William F. Buckley (Christian Encounters Series)

Two things drew me to this short bio of William F. Buckley: the author Jeremy Lott is someone whose writings I have admired for some time and the subject, WFB, is something I have been interested in since high school.

So when I was offered a review copy it wasn’t a tough choice. As soon as I got it in the mail I breezed threw this brief biography – and promptly did nothing about it.  As with so many other books, I read this back in the summer but did not get a chance to review it until now.

And? It is an excellent introduction to one of the central figures of the post-war conservative movement. But it is important to keep in mind that it is just that: an introduction.

You can’t do justice to a man like Buckley in less than 150 pages. But this book does what this type of book should do: give an interesting overview of the life and times of the subject and prompt the reader to seek out more.

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Ten Questions with Jeremy Lott on WFB

I am a big fan of William F. Buckley, Jr. Have been since high school. I have read nearly all of his books and  have read a great deal about him.

So I was intrigued when I saw that an author who I enjoy, Jeremy Lott, had come out with a short bio of WFB as part of the Christian Encounters series at Thomas Nelson.

This was another book I read back in the summer but didn’t get a chance to review until now. I thought it would be useful to bring back the Ten Questions format and ask Jeremy to answer a few questions.

He graciously agree and the Q&A is below (my questions in bold)

1. How does viewing WFB through the lens of “prophet” help us understand him better?

It helps us to see how he saw himself, at least in part. I quote from a letter that William F. Buckley wrote to Ronald Reagan recounting Buckley’s appearance on the Tonight Show. WFB told Johnny Carson “that vaticide was the act of killing a prophet, and that if he wanted to go down as guilty of that crime, all he had to do was kill me.”

Now, this was a witticism, so we shouldn’t place too much weight on it, but neither should we ignore it. I argue that it was along the lines of what Ben Stiller’s villain White Goodman said several times in the movie Dodgeball. You remember? “I’m kidding, but not really.”
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William F. Buckley Jr. book round-up

Conservative author and commentator William F....
Image via Wikipedia

I have not posted in a while.  A variety of things contributed to that which I will not bore you with.  On the bright side, I really like the new look of the site and WP 2.8 is working well.

I have for the most part tried to keep partisan politics off this blog.  This is for a number of reasons.  I started this blog to get away from politics and feel that books can be a source of common ground for people who disagree politically.

I started The Right Reads as a place to review and discuss non-fiction dealing with right of center politics.  It seems better to keep that separate from a site that still mostly reviews fiction, history and creative non-fiction rather than political activism and philosophy. I will link to content here when it seems appropriate – and vice versa – that way readers are aware of it and can read it if they so choose but it doesn’t distract from the focus

With that in mind, here are some links from a couple of memoirs tied to William F. Buckley Jr.:

–> Right Time, Right Place by Richard Brookhiser

As the subtitle – Coming of Age with William F. Buckley Jr. and the Conservative Movement –indicates, RTRP is a blend of history, memoir, and political commentary.  I find this type of “creative non-fiction” can lack focus, often jumping between subjects and styles, but Brookhiser’s unique perspective, style and flair for language make this a remarkably focused and powerful read.

It is a very personal and honest look at the man and magazine at the heart of the conservative movement’s rise to power, and eventual return to earth, while at the same time a meditation on the dangers of hero worship and the nature of mature relationships.

–> Q&A with Richard Brookhiser on Right Time, Right Place

–> Losing Mum and Pup by Christopher Buckley

I was prepared to be angry about Christopher Buckley’s latest book Losing Mum and Pup.  I have been a fan – idealized is probably more accurate – of his father’s since a very young age and worried about any attempt at sullying that reputation.  I was so sure a tell-all book about losing both of his parents within a year would be offensive.  Throw in Christo’s (the name his parents used for him) less than astute political judgment of late and I had all but pronounced him beyond the pale.

But I decided to read the book first.  And, despite the difficult nature of the subject, I am glad I did.

Right Time, Right Place by Richard Brookhiser

right time, right placeRichard Brookhiser I and have a lot in common.  We both started reading National Review in high school; we both idolized William F. Buckley Jr. (WFB); we both love history (including the now out of fashion “dead white males”); and we both ended up as freelance writers.

Well, to be fair Brookhiser had his first NR cover story at the age of 14; became a senior editor, then managing editor at National Review; was close friends with and, for a time, heir apparent to Buckley; and has written highly successful biographies of the founding fathers.  But take away the talent, ambition, and career success and it’s like we’re the same person!

Joking aside, it would be impossible to calculate how many young writers and politicos idealized and were inspired by Buckley and National Review.  Particularly in the period leading up to Ronald Regan’s election, WFB and NR were at the center of American conservatism.  And Brookhiser’s latest book – Right Time, Right Place – tells the story of what it was like to be at the very inner circle of this fully operational conservative battle station.

As the subtitle – Coming of Age with William F. Buckley Jr. and the Conservative Movement –indicates, RTRP is a blend of history, memoir, and political commentary.  I find this type of “creative non-fiction” can lack focus, often jumping between subjects and styles, but Brookhiser’s unique perspective, style and flair for language make this a remarkably focused and powerful read.

It is a very personal and honest look at the man and magazine at the heart of the conservative movement’s rise to power, and eventual return to earth, while at the same time a meditation on the dangers of hero worship and the nature of mature relationships.

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Q&A with Richard Brookhiser on Right Time, Right Place

I will declare my bias up front: Richard Brookhiser is one of my favorite writers. He hits the sweet spot with me; writing about politics, culture, and history with equal skill and insight.  There is a sharpness to his writing but at the same time a calmness; an ability to write about the details of the here and now but also keep history in mind.

So it is not surprising that when his latest book (Right Time, Right Place) came out I cleared the decks and read it.  Add in the fact that it is about William F. Buckley, National Review, and the history of the conservative movement, and it was a must read for me.  Look for my review later today.

As an added bonus, Brookhiser generously agreed to an email Q&A to discuss the book, his career, and the conservative movement. (Questions in Bold)

Had you always planned to write about your experience at NR, with WFB, and conservatism after Buckley’s passing?  How did this book come about?

I knew I wanted to write about my years with WFB. Death was the wake-up call: now you must get this done. I spoke to my agent, Michael Carlisle, who said, write a proposal, and I remember thinking: It’s on.

Was there ever a moment where you thought I shouldn’t write this; or I shouldn’t make it this personal?

I never doubted writing the book, which I owed to WFB, myself, and the history I lived through. If you don’t want to be personal, you should not write memoir (you will also have a lot of trouble living, but that’s another matter).

Were you worried that some would see it as a cheap shot at WFB (as some have done in comparing to Christopher’s book)?

Right Time, Right Place is a book about love—what it is, what it feels like, how it can go wrong, how you save it. Readers who can’t understand that should go back to Dan Brown.

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