Sunday, July 26, 2009
RIGHT TIME, RIGHT PLACE
Coming of Age with William F. Buckley Jr. and the Conservative Movement
By Richard Brookhiser
Basic. 262 pp. $27.50
American conservatives are stranded in a political wilderness, but memoir makes excellent manna. With "Right Time, Right Place," Richard Brookhiser, a turned-off, tuned-out baby boomer who published his first counter-counterculture writing in William F. Buckley's National Review at age 14, offers a foot soldier's view of the movement, the magazine and the man who sponsored supply-side economics, the Vietnam War and eight years of Ronald Reagan.
Balancing hero-worship with a frank assessment of ugly infighting at the Review -- Buckley denied his protege a promised top spot at the magazine for a lack of "executive flair" -- Brookhiser pays a fond farewell to the conservative icon whose death last year deprived a generation of right-wingers of its flawed ideological father. "The adversary who compelled liberals to respect him had become the respectable adversary," Brookhiser writes of Buckley's slow descent into bourgeois caricature marked by stretch limousines, simmering anti-Semitism and disagreements with his son, Christopher, who deserted the cause via a 2008 Barack Obama endorsement. As the Review once asked, "whither conservatism" without Buckley? Brookhiser doesn't pretend to know, but his lyrical meditation on the intersection of his own life and that of his "lost leader" will move the most hardened Nation subscriber.
-- Justin Moyer