Saturday, September 5, 2009

William F. Buckley, Jr. (cont'd)

I'm continuing to explore the books that have come out in the wake of the death, last year, of William F. Buckley, Jr.

The latest one I've read is Rick Brookhiser's Right Time, Right Place: Coming of Age with William F. Buckley Jr. and the Conservative Movement.

Brookhiser tells a story that I had never heard. Maybe this is the first time he's told it publicly; I'm not sure. When he was only 23 years old, Buckley designated Brookhiser as his heir apparent as editor-in-chief of National Review. Then, shortly before Buckley's retirement from that position, he withdrew the offer.

Brookhiser's resentment about that withdrawal pervades the remainder of this book. After a while, I found myself thinking "enough already", but I suppose that, given the importance of the magazine and its founder-editor to Brookhiser's career, it's understandable.

Brookhiser tells of his work first being published in the magazine as a free-lancing high school student. He followed that up with an internship during college (Yale, of course, would Bill accept anything else?) and a job on the magazine's staff, sometimes full-time, sometimes part-, for many years after he left New Haven.

One thing surprised me a bit. I had sort of assumed that the people Buckley had gathered around himself were devout Roman Catholics, as he was. But his son Christopher (who has become agnostic), in the book I reviewed in that earlier post, described his mother Pat as a not-very-observant Anglican. Now I find out that Brookhiser is a lapsed Methodist.

I am interested in Brookhiser's descriptions of the writer's life, both as a staff writer and as a freelancer. I have ambitions in that direction, but am getting off to a late start (I keep reminding myself that Grandma Moses was past 70 when she took up painting). I can't turn the clock back, and start in high school, as he did, but his description gives some helpful pointers.

If you're interested in American politics of the past four decades; writing and publishing; Bill Buckley; and life in Manhattan (I am, all of them), you'll probably enjoy this book.

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