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Encounters: My Life with Nixon, Marcuse, and Other Friends and Teachers Hardcover – May 15, 2009

4.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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An exacting, scrupulous historian of political ideas, Gottfried has never taught at an upper-tier university. That career disappointment is an evanescing leitmotiv in this memoir, which is far more concerned with what Gottfried learned from and enjoyed about his favorite acquaintances, most of them colleagues in academe and the world of philosophical-historical-political publishing, including Will Herberg, Paul Piccone, Peter Stanlis, Christopher Lasch, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene Genovese, Thomas Molnar, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, John Lukacs, and the Marxist father of the sexual revolution, Herbert Marcuse, whom Gottfried, though at the opposite end of the political spectrum, admired for his pedagogical liberality and European good manners. From outside the academy he recalls his entrepreneurial father, independent conservative scholar Russell Kirk, libertarian Murray Rothbard, columnists Samuel Francis and Pat Buchanan, and a figure almost as surprising as Marcuse in this context, Richard Nixon, whose knowledge, conversational panache, and personal warmth charmed Gottfried. Discussing his favorite people brings out a becoming modesty and a humane intellectual seriousness in Gottfried, which make him another—possibly the most—winning personality in the book. --Ray Olson


“Encounters is the account of a modest man, a very profound thinker. His accounts of men and his meetings with them and his understandings of them are very valuable, thoughtful, and not at all self-indulgent. They tell us very much about his subjects and also, unconsciously, about the qualities of himself.”—John Lukacs, author and historian

“Paul Gottfried, an American intellectual of superior talent, has been treated abominably by Academia, not only for his conservatism but for his incorruptibility. Yet, Gottfried’s memoir proceeds without bitterness, self-justification, or a settling of scores. This sprightly account of his career in Academia and conservative politics illuminates the intellectual and political currents of our time and abound with fresh insights and mature evaluations of persons and places.”—Eugene D. Genovese, author and historian

“It was a real treat to coast the curve of time with Professor Gottfried as his many milestones of intellectual history reveal their greatness with charm and their foibles with candor.  The author's searing self-awareness is an inspiration to all who eschew vulgarity for nobility.”— Rabbi Daniel Lapin; President, American Alliance of Jews and Christians.

“Paul Gottfried is a child of the century. He studied at Yale with Herbert Marcuse and has known Pat Buchanan, Will Herberg, Sam Frances, Richard Nixon, and many others. His autobiography Encounters narrates his intellectual journey, and will be indispensable as a source when the history of the conservative movement is written.”—Jeffrey Hart, professor emeritus of English at Dartmouth College, cultural critic, columnist

“Political philosopher Paul Gottfried, well-known for his studies of modern ideologies such as Marxism and neoconservatism, reveals the personal and intellectual influences that have made him one of our most provocative scholars. In this candid and beautifully written memoir, we learn more about friends such as Herbert Marcuse, Richard Nixon, and Patrick Buchanan than in a shelf of biographies. Encounters is indispensable reading for every student of modern American conservatism.”­—Lee Edwards, author and Distinguished Fellow at The Heritage Foundation

"What jumps off the pages of Encounters is the amazing intellectual courage of an author who clearly and unequivocally states and defends what he believes. Agree with Gottfried or not, you will appreciate his refreshing honesty. A penetrating read."­—L. Brent Bozell III, president of the Media Research Center


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 275 pages
  • Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Institute; 1 edition (May 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933859997
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933859996
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,249,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Chris Woltermann on July 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Paleoconservatives are reactive rather than reactionary. They do not idealize the past, much less seek to restore it. As exemplified by Prof. Paul Gottfried, the leading intellectual among them, paleoconservatives loathe the regnant political elite and how it glorifies the present as the most enlightened age in history. This viewpoint has become mainstream, and paleoconservatives hate it all the more. According to its tenets, something approaching human perfection will be achieved when through the ministrations of equally firm and benevolent government, people are irreversibly "liberated" from the last remaining vestiges of sexism, racism, homophobia, and sundry inhibitions inculcated by repressive religious and/or cultural practices. Allegedly only then will individuals be truly free for self-actualization. Nauseating nonsense, say the paleoconservatives. Neither radical freedom nor the intrusive government necessary to mold individuals for it is desirable; both are incompatible with ordered liberty in community with others.

Gottfried's autobiography reviews his growth as a person and scholar. He presents his life as a series of "encounters" with influential people, some famous and others not. His paleoconservatism comes out in his interactions with his students at Elizabethtown College. Their ignorance, typical of their generation, dismays him. They know virtually nothing about Western civilization except its reputation, altogether counterfactual, for the worst imaginable oppression of of women, nonwhites, Jews, homosexuals, etc.

The author's most consequential encounters were with his father, Andrew Gottfried, an interwar Jewish refugee from Hungary.
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Format: Hardcover
PaulGottfried's new memoir, "Encounters: My Life with Nixon, Marcuse, and Other Friends and Teachers," provides an ideal introduction to the works of this scholar, who is perhaps the most acute "political genealogist" of our time.

Having spent an enormous amount of time trudging through "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance" to write my reader's guide to the President's autobiography, "America's Half-Blood Prince," I was pleased to see that Dr. Gottfried made consistently opposite choices in molding his memoir. While "Dreams" is long, "Encounters" is short. "Dreams" is evasive, featureless, and self-absorbed, while "Encounters" is forthright, anecdotal, and interesting about Gottfried's better-known friends.

Gottfried's academic career has been notoriously incommensurate with his talents. In "Encounters," he refers to his professional frustrations with a melancholic wit reminiscent of Nabokov's narrators, in asides such as "... a point that I have made to a generally unreceptive public in my recent books".

Yet, the lack of an Ivy League chair is not an impediment to striking up a dialogue with idiosyncratic thinkers, as Gottfried repeatedly did through the U.S. Mail: "What makes my life ... perhaps even worth reading about is that it has gone nowhere in particular but has been nonetheless packed with fascinating encounters".

Gottfried, for example, wrote to Richard Nixon, the most intellectual President since at least Coolidge, after the former President had publicly praised his 1986 book "The Search for Historical Meaning." They became rather good friends.
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Format: Hardcover
This autobiographical work revolves around Paul Gottfried's personal encounters with other significant figures rather than focusing on himself, as he contends that the "stimulating relations I have formed over the years should interest my readers more than my undistinguished professional life." (p. ix) Gottfried's standard of judgment is rather high here since he has authored numerous scholarly books and is generally considered the leading intellectual figure of the paleoconservative movement, and that his scholarly achievements took place while raising five children and confronting the tragic death of his first wife from cancer.

Although Gottfried devotes considerable attention to his father, a Hungarian-Jewish immigrant who became a successful businessman and local civic leader (whom Gottfried regards as more successful than himself), his book primarily dwells on various intellectual figures of diverse ideological hues, including the anarcho-libertarian Murray Rothbard; right-wing populist Samuel Francis; Catholic rightist Thomas Molnar; conservatives, Russell Kirk, John Lukacs, Robert Nisbet, Peter Stanlis, M. E. Bradford, and Will Herberg; Marxists Eugene Genovese, Paul Piccone and Herbert Marcuse. As someone who might seem as an outlier in this group, he also includes former President Richard Nixon, whom Gottfried shows to be a deep thinker. Moreover, it might be news to many readers of Gottfried's political articles that he would have close intellectual associates on the left, which exemplifies both his broadmindedness and that of these particular leftists. Gottfried mainly discusses these individuals in separate vignettes, which he weaves together into a coherent whole.
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