Wednesday, August 18, 2010

William F. Buckley by Jeremy Lott

Buckley has been called the “Patron Saint of the Conservatives.” (xii) He helped to “midwife” the conservative movement.

People keep coming back to Buckley, mostly for his arguments, wit and wisdom. Lott proposes that most people are missing something – Buckley’s religion, the inspiration for and frame of Buckley’s politics. It was his religion that made Buckley truly interesting and a thorn in the side of many.
Lott’s idea in writing this concise biography (the 140 pages can be read in an evening) is to recount the public life of Buckley, present an argument as to the role he played, and show that he saw himself as a sort of prophet.
In a selective treatment of Buckley’s life we see Buckley at Yale, a short time in the CIA, assistant manager at a right-wing magazine, transfiguring and promoting Barry Goldwater, running for mayor of New York, a television career, writing for Playboy, his racism and writing fiction.
Lott’s account is not always even and smooth. He spends pages arguing that the Buckleys should not be likened to the Kennedys. He ends one chapter on Buckley writing a book about McCarthy and starts the next by listing the people involved in the early National Review, only writing about the founding of the magazine pages later.
Oddly enough, Lott’s book is missing what he accuses other of missing: Buckley’s religion. While Lott does speak to Buckley’s confrontation with the Catholic Church, we never find out what Buckley believed as a Catholic and how it did inspire and frame his politics.
This book is for those who want a quick introduction to Buckley’s role in the rise of the conservative movement. Those wanting an in depth understanding of Buckley must look elsewhere.
This book was provided for review by Thomas Nelson Publishers.
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