Customer Reviews: Right Time, Right Place: Coming of Age with William F. Buckley Jr. and the Conservative Movement
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on June 28, 2009
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.

In addition to Buckley, Brookhiser touches on many of the very colorful characters who populated NR through the years, names that are very familiar to those of us who have been long-time readers. James Burnham, Bill Rusher, Gary Wills, Joe Sobran and many of the others from NR's past are dealt with in revealing, sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing portraits. Brookhiser also deals with and gives insight into a number of the behind-the-scenes policy controversies that are so important to an opinion journal like NR: the Panama Canal, the Soviets, tax cuts.

The only quibble I have is that Brookhiser never fully resolves the other theme of the book: his lifelong quest for a father figure. The picture he draws of his own father is one of a man perhaps no better but realistically no worse than any of our fathers. He does come to recognize this after his falling out with Buckley but even in his more mature years when he becomes enamoured of the historical George Washington, he is still looking for that perfect father figure. The genesis of that search remains elusive.

Right Time, Right Place is a beautifully written work that should be of interest to anyone curious about the history of the last fifty years, is intrigued by big personalities on big stages or who like to see how love can make us better people.

Highly recommended.
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on June 9, 2009
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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on June 16, 2009
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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on February 14, 2010
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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VINE VOICEon July 3, 2009
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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on May 3, 2012
Brookhiser drops the names of every political and literary conservative he met or worked from 1975 to the mid 90's, first as a writer and managing editor of the National Review, where he was mentored by William F. Buckley, and then as a freelance journalist. It was only after the publication of his first book on George Washington that he was able to take on a more predictable array of assignments. Brookhiser is now a full-time writer of American history (though not trained as a formal historical scholar) with emphasis on the Founding Fathers but in his salad days, he saw first hand the fall of Nixon, the rise of Reagan and the fall of the Soviet Empire, events that he rightly feels were to some extent helped by the conservative voices of that era, his own included. The book mentions the contributions of the many political types and writers, many of whom are largely unknown or forgotten by readers in this decade. His prose is artful and measured, never overstated, and a pleasure to read.
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on February 9, 2014
Well worth reading for Buckley fans. Tells the behind the scenes story of Buckley, National Review and Brookhiser's relation to both. Interesting and objective portrait of the journal, Buckely and all around both.
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on July 24, 2014
At times in the past I have found Richard Brookhiser a bit dry. I have come to realize that I simply needed to improve my vocabulary and knowledge of history and the world: this book is scintillating to the educated. If you want to be educated on the history of the conservative movement in America and get a very personal and intimate view into the life of William F. Buckley, Jr. and National Review then read this book, look up the characters and words and read again if necessary: it is magnificent. Truly moving and insightful, this book is a must read by those who want to be experts in the development of the conservative movement and the life of perhaps its most influential shaper.
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on August 10, 2013
Brookhiser has penned an interesting account of his relationship with the late Wm. F. Buckley, Jr. and his up and down association with National Review. A wonderful book for anyone interested in the intellectual politics of American conservatives over the last three decades. Well worth the effort.
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on August 12, 2009
A highly readable account of life with Bill Buckley from an excessively talented writer. I read Brookhiser and can only think, how lucky I am not to be excessively talented! Excessive talent leads to being early singled out for promise, early rubbing shoulders with one's idols, then an inevitable fizzing of air from the balloon as one does not quite make the cut. That's what happened to the excessively talented Brookhiser - Bill Buckley lifted him up, then let him down. And for eight years, Brookhiser had counted on Buckley's private promise to make Brookhiser his successor, staying at National Review when he had the ability to write for a well paying magazine or newspaper. Much of the account is taken up with Republican politics, less than fascinating to the general non-National Review reader. I once saw Brookhiser at NY's Penn station, waiting for the Acela to Washington. Although I have read most of his books, I did not approach him, would not think of it. This book confirms me in that impression of his character, the air of hauteur, the invisible screen. He has careful words for most of his colleagues wisely enough, though he dubs Peggy Noonan a "white Oprah". Brookhiser is an excellent memoirist, this book was well worth reading and takes its rightful place on my bookshelf. Broohiser's career, by the way, was sustained for many lean years by his loyal wife, Jeanne Safer, who supported them with her psychoanalytic practice. While Brookhiser mentions that, it bears repeating. I will not approach Mr. Brookhiser in Penn Station, but I do plan to reread Founding Father.
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