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Short format isn't quite up to the complexity of the subject

  • Oct 12, 2010
  • by
A far more satisfying "Christian Encounter" than my earlier one with Winston Churchill (Christian Encounters Series) was, "William F. Buckley" is a decent capsule biography of the man who had such an impact on American politics -- as well as on so many people -- in the second half of the twentieth century. Where I found it unsatisfactory were areas primarily due, I think, to the length imposed by the small "Christian Encounters" format: trying to mix the details of WFB's biography with a focus on the impact of his Christian faith on his life and work, Lott didn't have sufficient room (leaving aside the question of whether he would have *wanted*) a more complete depiction of the context of American conservatism pre- and post-Buckley, a fuller examination of the contradictions between his faith and some of the Cold War policies he endorsed, and WFB's evident break from, and disappointment in, the direction of the formal "conservative movement" in the last years of his life.

For all of those questions, I would add a few titles to Lott's decent "Recommended Reading" section in the back of this book, including: The Making of the American Conservative Mind: National Review and Its Times by long-time Buckley associate Jeffrey Hart (particularly on WFB's alleged "radicalism," which never was); The Betrayal of the American Right by Murray N. Rothbard (mentioned in passing in the text, though not by name, and who had Buckley more or less figured out as far back as 1952); and although it has its own flaws, The Rise of the Right by William A. Rusher.

Still, Lott is to be credited for painting a good portrait, if in miniature, and for asking some good questions. This isn't an uncritical biography, nor is it a hatchet job. People truly interested in the man will be left wanting more, as will anyone desiring the fuller context described above. But as a back-pocket bio for killing a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, this isn't a bad introduction to an interesting and complex subject.

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review by . September 03, 2010
William F. Buckley Jr. (1925-2008) made American conservatism what it is today. He founded its flagship publication (National Review), organized its youth movement (Young Americans for Freedom), policed its borders (rooting out Birchers, Randians and anti-Semites), argued its intellectual superiority (Firing Line and his unsuccessful bid for New York's mayoralty), and promoted its presidential candidates (Goldwater, unsuccessfully, and Reagan, successfully). He also made mistakes (opposing the …
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Andrew S. Rogers ()
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About this book


Christian Encounters, a series of biographies from Thomas Nelson Publishers, highlights important lives from all ages and areas of the Church. Some are familiar faces. Others are unexpected guests. But all, through their relationships, struggles, prayers, and desires, uniquely illuminate our shared experience.

"[B]efore there was Ronald Reagan, there was Barry Goldwater, and before there was Barry Goldwater there was National Review, and before there was National Review there was Bill Buckley with a spark in his mind."-George Will

William F. Buckley Jr., was the popular host of one of television's longest-running programs, "Firing Line," and the author of more than 50 books, but "his greatest achievement was making conservatism-not just electoral Republicanism but conservatism as a system of ideas-respectable in liberal post-World War II America."

Buckley started National Review magazine in 1955, at the age of 29, and quickly became known as the standard-bearer of American conservatism, promoting the fusion of traditional conservatives and libertarians. His twice-weekly syndicated column, "On the Right," was distributed to more than 320 newspapers across the country. Buckley inspired and incited three generations of conservatives-and counting-uniting anti-Communists, traditionalists, constitutionalists, and enthusiasts for free markets under one tent.


Buckleys, not Kennedys --
Yale and God. oh, man! --
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ISBN-10: 1595550658
ISBN-13: 978-1595550651
Author: Jeremy Lott
Genre: Biography
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
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