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William F. Buckley Jr.: The Maker of a Movement Hardcover – April 12, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Lee Edwards is a leading historian of the conservative movement, having written The Conservative Revolution, The Essential Ronald Reagan, and Goldwater: The Man Who Made a Revolution, among many other books. He is the distinguished fellow in conservative thought at the Heritage Foundation and an adjunct professor of politics at Catholic University. Dr. Edwards lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his wife, Anne.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Institute; 1 edition (April 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193519173X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935191735
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #766,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Eric Mayforth on May 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
William F. Buckley was perhaps the most influential American journalist of the latter half of the twentieth century, and his impact on our politics was immense. Lee Edwards chronicles Buckley's life in this volume.

The author begins by describing Buckley's early years, including his upbringing and years at Yale, and then moves on to the 1950s, when Buckley built the conservative movement. He discusses the founding of National Review, and discusses how Buckley united the different factions of conservatism under one tent. Conservatism necessarily maintains a healthy tension between authority and tradition on one hand and justice and freedom on the other, and Edwards discusses the "fusionism" that Buckley used to unite traditionalists with more libertarian conservatives, while at the same time reading the Birchers and Randites out of the movement.

Edwards traces Buckley's life and magazine as they became more influential in American life from the 1960s through the 1980s, discussing the Goldwater nomination, Buckley's candidacy for mayor of New York City, Ronald Reagan's election, and the ultimate victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War. The book recalls the famous Blackford Oakes spy novels and closes by discussing Buckley's commentary on the War on Terror of the past decade.

All conservatives would enjoy this book, but younger conservatives who want to learn more about the history of their movement would especially profit by reading this short biography of one of the giants of recent American life.
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Format: Hardcover
"We must do what we can to bring hammer blows against the bell jar that protects the dreamers from reality." William F. Buckley

Lee Edward's book introduces us to the life and ideas of William F. Buckley Jr. He attempts to explore the life of a man defined by his complexity, nuanced thought, humor, faith and a passion for life but offers us only fleeting glimpses. This 191 page book is written more like an informative time line, then an attempt to reveal "the father of conservatism."

Edwards does a good job in the limited space he allows himself to recreate the cold war context in which Buckley was developing and executing his various approaches to political thought. He also effectively sketches how Buckley galvanized the ideas of the different approaches to conservatism into a powerful political movement. Edwards, overall, creates a solid outline of Buckley but rarely gives us the depth of his trademark intellectual dexterity and passion for ideas.

This would be a solid jumping off point for anyone looking to get an introductory sense of Buckley, a true renaissance man of political ideas. For me, watching Buckley engaged his guests on Firing Line gives you a better sense of the multifaceted intelligence, humor and vitality that made up William Buckley and are missing from this book. This You Tube clip with Noam Chomsky in 1969 gives a sense of Buckley [...]

Perhaps Edwards simply wrote too small a book for so large a man.
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Format: Hardcover
A thoroughly disappointing biography from several angles. True, it gets the point across, it tells the story fairly well: the Catholic, conservative, wordsmith gave American conservatism an intellectual panache and foundation it lacked in the 1950s, when, in the wake of FDR, it had lost its way. It's true: without Goldwater, no Reagan; without Buckley, no Goldwater. Still, this book was little better than a well-written Wikipedia entry. There is no flair and no depth in this book. Instead of long expositions on the issues of the day, or his books, or his seminal articles, there is very little. Three skimpy paragraphs explain the Vidal incident. Books like "Up From Liberalism" are mentioned in passing. There no real exposition of anything. Instead of explaining John Lindsay, or Nelson Rockefeller, or what was going on at the time, you get a superficial view of what Buckley was doing to counter these straw men, because Lee Edwards, the author, gave these straw men no real flesh. This book could have used a hundred more pages, or, better, one hundred fifty. And pictures? Where are they? There are four small portraits that are strewn across just the first 62 pages, and they aren't even of the biography's subject. Instead there are these four dull pics of Nock, Kendall, Burnham, and Chambers. Why have pictures at all?

As I gave Buckley's witty "autobiography" "Miles Gone By" four stars, this gets half of that: two.

Because of this book, I will not buy anything else by Lee Edwards.
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Format: Hardcover
Lee Edwards has hit a home run once again, this time with the fantastic bio of William F. Buckley. Edwards does a supurb job of capturing all the best in the life and times of the founder of the modern day Conservative movement. This book is a great look back for those of us who grew up with WFB and serves as the perfect introduction to Buckley for the younger generation who did not grow up on NR and/or "Firing Line". Kudos to Edwards for another well written biography!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While we await the comprehensive authorized biography (whatever that can possibly mean) by Sam Tanenhaus (who did the marvelous biography of Whitakker Chambers – let’s hope he does the same for WFB), we have this wonderful short but complete tour of Buckley’s life by Lee Edwards. If you are a Buckley hater, this will seem hagiography, but those of us who look to WFB as a hero will find it fair minded and informative. Obviously, if you already know a lot about Buckley, a book of this brevity will be more refresher than revealer of new things. I enjoyed it a great deal.

Here we get Buckley’s entire life and career with lots of fascinating stories, observations from those who knew him, and the wild and fun times Buckley and his circle had in tweaking the Liberal establishment from Yale through his entire life. We get a good sense of how important the Goldwater effort was and how badly Goldwater and his team in whom they listened to and how it doomed his campaign. Of course, the question remains if anything could have made America switch parties and go for a third president in just over a year. Likely not. But Buckley and his band carried on and eventually Reagan became the fulfillment of their ambitions.

Buckley’s career is too big for this small book. But it is a great introduction for young people who never knew him but want to. And it is fun to remember for those, like me, who held and hold him in high regard. Sometimes we get accused of being blind to his limitations and faults. I don’t think we are. But we know we are all human and full of failings. What we look for in our heroes isn’t how they are flawed as we are, but where they were exceptional and exceeded what we have been able to do.

And WFB was full of excellence.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI
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