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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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VINE VOICEon February 6, 2017
As a young man, Brookhiser was tagged by William F. Buckley as a young (conservative) man with a future. According to Brookhiser, Buckley made it clear that Brookhiser would succeed him as editor of the National Review, which Buckley had founded and which was the leading conservative journal of opinion in the United States.

Alas, it was not to be, as Buckley ultimately shocked Brookhiser by curtly dismissing him. In the end, Brookhiser followed an alternative path in which he concentrated his writing on popular history where he has had considerable success.

The books is very well written and shouldn't be missed by anyone interested in Buckley or the mid-twentieth century U.S. conservative movement.
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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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on September 12, 2011
I was a fan of William F. Buckley, Jr. This book tells Brookhiser's version of a purported secret succession plan at Bill Buckley's magazine National Review. It is, as Brookhiser writes, the story of how he "suddenly went from precocious to retarded." It may have seemed that way to the author, but more likely it was the author's version of how Buckley went from a wise, promising father figure to a troubled gadfly and pretentious boss once Buckley selected someone else to be editor in chief. Readers can look past the spoiled child's fit and still glean some insights into one of modern America's most interesting figures. Buckley led an intriguing life. His followers were interested in various aspects of it. Brookhiser assumes we are equally interested in where the author had lunch or which restaurants were his favorites!?! Here and elsewhere Brookhiser presumes he inherited Buckley's sophistication. Brookhiser writes that Washington is "a combination of pompous buildings and dull people." It is like Brookhiser wrote this whine to prove Buckley was quite discerning in passing him over as editor.
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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 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 March 10, 2010
Excellent biography of an ingenious gentleman, who also loved peanut butter.
I share this liking for PB, as well as for Buckley's vocabulary and wit. Such biographical data, on Buckley, are practically non-existent, so thanks much for the book, "Right Time, Right Place".
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on March 6, 2010
This was well worth the $1.24 it's selling for now, due to some local 60s color in the beginning, but it quickly becomes unreadable except as an unconscious account of what's wrong with so-called "conservatism."

Brookhiser is one of those guys whose "conservatism" is not a matter of principles [that would be 'dogmatic' and 'old-fashioned'] but simply some adolescent impulse to gain-say whatever the Times or the cool kids at college say, then eventually giving in years later. His "conservative" odyssey starts by supporting The War by making stencils and throwing paint at hippies [rather than, say, going to Vietnam himself] but never gives any apparent reason for it.

As the book continues Brookhiser acquires no principles [but does acquire a New York City Jewish psychoanalyst as a wife, which gives you some idea of his "conservatism"] but quite to the contrary, rather than learning anything he simply follows Buckley like a puppy dog as the latter continues his self- [or CIA] appointed task of neutering the "conservative movement." Everyone with ideas that might offend the Liberal Zeitgeist is first offered a place at the table so as to shock the Liberal Elite and then purged one by one when they get uppity; the ones who are already gone appear to Brookhiser only in the form of newsletters still mailed in from 'nuts' and 'racists' and 'anti-Semites;' more appear during his tenure at National Review, driven out in turn by Buckley or himself, until finally its his own turn, at which point he suddenly discovers Buckley is an unprincipled scoundrel.

At no point does any actual idea occur, to say nothing of argument or refutation; instead, old friends suddenly become embarrassing at cocktail parties and so must disappear.

I confess I stopped reading after the purge of Joe Sobran; really, anyone who takes "supply side" economics seriously [the economic equivalent of Brookhiser's unprincipled "conservatism": a non-theory promoted by non-economists to win elections against "da liberals"] is ill-qualified to denounce Sobran's harmless private hobbyhorse of Oxfordism as equivalent to "paranoia" and of a piece with antisemitism. I assume he still has the Jewish psychoanalyst to remind him of "the conservative movement"?

In its own way, useful to future historians as an account, and even more, an example, of what Yockey [one of those 'nuts'] called America's "cultural retardation."
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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 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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