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Buckley and Mailer: The Difficult Friendship That Shaped the Sixties Hardcover – June 1, 2015
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“Buckley and Mailer brings alive two talented, tireless characters…. Schultz weave[s] their contrasting public lives together in a way that helps to make sense of an era.”
- Aram Bakshian Jr, Wall Street Journal
“Judging by this ardently researched book, [Buckley and Mailer] seem to have saved every letter they wrote or received, and their lively epistolary relationship forms the core of this perceptive dual portrait.”
- Kevin Canfield, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Buckley and Mailer is a largely respectful portrait, but Schultz doesn’t sugarcoat his subjects’ failings…. Flawed these men were for sure. But…it’s good to remember pundits who thought big, fought big, had something to say and said it with hellacious verve.”
- Chris Tucker, Dallas Morning News
“Schultz brings a good-natured, entertaining and, rare in academe, highly readable style to his treatment of two 20th century America patriots whose lives enriched us all.”
- John R. Coyne Jr., Washington Times
“[A] provocative and thorough…social and political history of the sixties, among the very best we have had.”
- Mark Levine, Booklist (starred review)
“Schultz navigates the 1960s through these two larger-than-life men, offering plentiful anecdotes in an informed, entertaining style.”
- Publishers Weekly
“One might think that Bill Buckley and Norman Mailer were not at all alike, but Kevin M. Schultz, in his very entertaining book, reminds us to think again. In fact, despite their complicated political differences, these two American originals liked each other, tried to understand each other, and discovered that that they had much in common: a passion for engagement, for literate expression, and perhaps above all the pleasure they took in playing their outsize selves.”
- Jeffrey Frank, best-selling author of Ike and Dick
“Riveting. In this superbly written account of two of the most fascinating and important 20th-century American intellectuals, Kevin M. Schultz not only brings the spirits of William Buckley and Norman Mailer back to life, he endows us with a subtle yet profound analytical framework for understanding the massive social changes set off during the Sixties. Anyone who wants to understand contemporary American political culture needs to read this book.”
- Andrew Hartman, author of A War for the Soul of America
About the Author
Kevin M. Schultz holds a PhD in history from the University of California, Berkeley, and teaches twentieth-century American history at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He lives in Chicago.
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Buckley and Mailer first came into regular contact in the early 1960s. Buckley had already written several books and, as founder of the National Review, was one of the most well known conservatives in the country. Mailer was a successful novelist and political writer who was one of the Left's most colorful spokesmen. After a public debate they became close friends. Buckley and his wife Pat often invited Mailer and his wives (he went through a series of marriages and divorces) for visits and sails at their Connecticut home, and Mailer reciprocated whenever his messier household affairs allowed. Their friendship survived despite their multitudinous disagreements on civil rights, Vietnam, and other issues. They were friends and acquaintances with a galaxy of such well known figures as Truman Capote, Martin Luther King, Robert Lowell, and many others. Eventually both found themselves left behind by the changes they had helped to launch: Mailer because he had no sympathy with the increasing nihilism of the American Left, and Buckley because his style of patrician conservatism did not merge well with the populism of the New Right. The two men died within months of each other in 2007-08, leaving a giant hole in American intellectual life.
This was a fascinating book, not just in its biographies of Buckley and Mailer but also in its coverage of the civil rights and anti-war movements. I remember watching both men on television in the 1970s and 1980s and reading and enjoying their prolific literary outputs. Schulz has done a good job capturing their personalities and magnetism . In these days of chronic political gridlock and conflict it's good to be reminded of a time when men who disagreed with each other could still respect and be friends with each other.