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Right Time, Right Place: Coming of Age with William F. Buckley Jr. and the Conservative Movement Hardcover – June 9, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1969, the precocious 14-year-old Brookhiser wrote a cover story for National Review and began to correspond with founding editor William F. Buckley Jr., who serves as both hero and, sometimes, villain of this wistful memoir. After graduating from Yale, the author became Buckley's designated successor, his rapid ascendancy mirroring the prodigious gains of the conservative movement as championed by the magazine and led by Ronald Reagan. The book, like the author's life, takes an abrupt turn when the mercurial Buckley writes him a letter to say that he no longer considers Brookhiser an appropriate candidate to succeed him. Brookhiser offers accounts of writing his book on Washington, Founding Father, and his struggle with testicular cancer, but the book becomes less focused as the relationship between the author and his mentor becomes strained. Nevertheless, the author deftly sets his personal and professional biography in a sharply observed historical and intellectual context, while sharing his deep affection for—and occasional resentment of—Buckley with compelling candor. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Michael Medved, talk radio host and author of The 10 Big Lies About America
“A stirring and enormously readable account that provides a valuable reminder of the ability of a single individual to bend the course of history and alter, forever, a nation’s thinking.”

Rich Lowry, editor of National Review
“Richard Brookhiser has written a wonderful memoir that is a personal history of National Review and of contemporary conservativism—unabashedly honest, deeply wise, and analytically acute. Brookhiser is the prose equivalent of a fine jeweler. With his lapidary style and dazzling metaphors and erudition, he’s always a marvel to read.”

Lou Cannon, co-author of Reagan’s Disciple
Right Time, Right Place is a galloping good read—an honest, fast-paced, revealing memoir by one of the conservative movement’s best writers. William F. Buckley emerges as a real human being, warts and all, and not just the Conservative Saint. Of course, Buckley is that, too, but he’s more rounded in this book than in any other I have read.”

Terry Teachout, drama critic of The Wall Street Journal
“I thought I knew Bill Buckley. Now I know better—a lot better. But Right Time, Right Place is more than just a poignant, startlingly frank memoir of a remarkable man. It is also a portrait of a pivotal moment in American political and intellectual life, seen through the eyes of a gifted writer who saw it all happen and knew what he was seeing. Anyone who wants to understand how and why the conservative movement changed America will have to reckon with this book.”

Wall Street Journal
“In Right Time, Right Place, Mr. Brookhiser tells the story of his rise and fall in Buckley’s world. It’s an admiring, but not always flattering, portrait of the most prolific public intellectual of his time.”

Washington Times
“[T]his is a beautifully written book, rich in character and anecdote, with good political reporting and a dispassionate account of Mr. Brookhiser’s bout with cancer, which he handled bravely and with grace. Above all, though, it’s about a young man’s education and his teacher.”

Mona Charen
“Absorbing reading…. [A] gripping tale…. Brookhiser tells the story of his relationship with WFB…straightforwardly and honestly…. [A] fascinating look back (how does he remember so many details?) at a 30-year friendship and collaboration (part of which I witnessed first hand). Rick’s personal history with WFB parallels the rise of the conservative movement. And it will not surprise fans of Brookhiser’s biographies that this memoir is a brilliant and beautifully written history of the past several decades.”

Publishers Weekly
“[Brookhiser] deftly sets his personal and professional biography in a sharply observed historical and intellectual context, while sharing his deep affection for – and occasional resentment of – Buckley with compelling candor.”

Kirkus Review (starred review)
“[W]onderfully conversational, occasionally confessional, frequently witty…. More than anything, though, Brookhiser reflects on his maturation as a thinker, writer and a man who for too long measured his worth against the glittering Buckley, his spiritual father, inspiration, boss and friend. Old enough now to appreciate the misunderstandings on both sides, chastened by a bout with cancer and distinguished in his own right as a historian, Brookhiser’s eyes-wide-open appraisal of his mentor is deeply affectionate. Right book, right author.”

Christian Science Monitor
Right Time, Right Place is refreshingly free of spicy score settling and juicy revelations. Instead, readers get tasty morsels of candor caramelized in the searing heat of self-reflection. The result is a psychologically rich personal narrative.”

New York Times Book Review
“Brookhiser is a talented and prolific writer, best known in recent years for a series of books on the founding fathers. But through much of his adult life, the center of his world was National Review. This slight but engaging memoir is the story of a young man drawn early into Buckley’s orbit who struggled over many years to bask in, and at times to escape, the aura of his famous mentor.”

Washington Post
“Balancing hero-worship with a frank assessment of ugly infighting at the Review…Brookhiser pays a fond farewell to the conservative icon whose death last year deprived a generation of right-wingers of its flawed ideological father…. [H]is lyrical meditation on the intersection of his own life and that of his ‘lost leader’ will move the most hardened Nation subscriber.”

Ramesh Ponnuru, First Things
“There is no better book about William F. Buckley or National Review, and it is a good, quick sketch of the conservative movement’s last few decades. The book is also a treat, written with the spare elegance and psychological insight that Rick’s fans have come to expect.”

City Journal
Right Time, Right Place compellingly captures the editorial world of Buckley’s National Review. As a book about recent conservative politics and magazine life, it can be fascinating.”

Indianapolis Star
“[A] thoroughly engaging and fair portrayal of Buckley…. [A]s an intellectual coming-of-age memoir coupled with an insider’s view of an important political movement and its leaders, this book can’t be beat.”


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (June 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465013554
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465013555
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,722,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Brookhiser is a very gifted writer who avoids here both petty score-settling and its opposite, idolatry. First encountering William F. Buckley when Buckley's National Review ran a piece (as a cover story!) that the then 14 year old Brookhiser had submitted, the book relates the often difficult relationship that began as proxy child/father and evolved through the years into one of being equals.

Brookhiser walks a real tightrope here, being unsparringly honest, noting Buckley's flaws and weaknesses while not neglecting so much about the man that made him such a singular figure. The end result is a balanced and therefore very accesible account of a very real man. In telling his story about Buckley as he does Broohiser tells us much about himself as well. Deeply bitter about Buckley's having promised him that he'd be Buckley's successor, then reneging on that promise without warning, Brookhiser continued to work for NR (as he does to this day), in a diminished capacity with his approach to Buckley considerably more cautious. But Brookhiser doesn't let his bitterness consume him or let Buckley's crude handling of the matter poison their relationship in perpetuity. Buckley possessed so many admirable qualities - energy, intelligence, an astonishing generosity - and Broohiser doesn't let his lesser qualities overwhelm them. Forgiveness really is an act of grace.

What strikes you about Right Time, Right Place is the degree to which it is permeated with love, an adult and therefore meaningful love that admits that people are flawed but doesn't get devoured by that fact. It is easy to love a perfect person, much less so one whose flaws can bring pain.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fabulous book. First it supplies an intimate report of the intellectual battlefields of the last half century. Neatly woven in to that tableau is a bittersweet reminiscence of collegial friendship along the way with an unique and stirring individual. Or maybe I have their priority reversed. In either case, both accounts are supremely well written, and the latter especially moving. This is a new discovery for me, that Mr. Brookhiser writes so well. Now I must go check out more of his writings. Well done, Mr. Brookhiser. Well done.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is very good on many levels. I was surprised at its depth.

I got the book to read about William Buckley, "National Review," and the influence of both Buckley and the magazine on American politics.

What I got was much better than that. I did learn about Buckley, and I did learn about his magazine. But I also got a pretty darned good intellectual history of the political battles fought in America over a period of several years.

I learned many things I did not know. I learned William Buckley was human, quirky, and not above making some big mistakes. He did not really know how to communicate with people, and had to resort to leaving notes. But he was also very generous, and capable of great kindness. I came away liking the man, despite his quirks and faults. He made the world a better place by being in it.

I learned that the battles fought on the right did not go the way one thinks they did. There were divisions, fights over turf, great differences in the preference of candidates, and shifts in ideas and ideals.
The author was there to see many of them, and he writes about them very well. The book is remarkable engaging.

Many of the person to person encounters in this book are funny, or painful, or surprising. The book never ceases to surprise.

The author deserves considerable praise for this book. He wrote a little gem . I hope it will get the sales and attention it deserves.
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Format: Hardcover
We have come to expect good writing from Brookhiser and this is no exception. But while Brookhiser usually writes about historical figures---all of these short, succinct biographies of founding fathers are worth reading---in RTRP he describes in great detail a modern figure, Bill Buckley, for whom he worked and acknowledges as one of what George Will called "the most consequential Americans" of the 2oth Century. Brookhiser has a great capacity for capturing the essence of great figures without the need to take hundreds of pages and thousands of words to do so. He not only describes Buckley's great contributions to modern American conservative thought but he gives a wonderful sense of the man, while not flinching from pointing out some of Buckley's odd foibles. While Christopher Buckley's book about both his parents is witty, I prefer this book as both personal, thoughtful and insightful. Time for one book on WFB, go for this one.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read and admired a number of Richard Brookhiser's works. In my view, this is the best. His new book certainly presents a insider's view of the conservative movement and one of its historic leaders, William Buckley. That alone should be of interest to anyone interested in modern American history, politics or culture, whether conservative or not. It's also full of insights on a range of issues: changes in American life in the past 40 years (he well captures aspects of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, giving some sense of what those times, very different from today, felt like); father-son relationships; maturity; and, of course, acute observations on various political figures (his concise take on the speaking styles of George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush is memorable writing.) Brookhiser's career began at such an early age that he is able to write a compelling memoir at the height of his powers. One looks forward to much more from him. I recommend this book most highly!
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