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In the United States at this time liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition. For it is the plain fact that nowadays there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation. This does not mean, of course, that there is no impulse to conservatism or to reaction. Such impulses are certainly very strong, perhaps even stronger than most of us know. But the conservative impulse and the reactionary impulse do not, with some isolated and some ecclesiastical exceptions, express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.
    -Lionel Trilling, The Liberal Imagination (1950)

If Mr. Trilling's pronouncement was >obvious nonsense when he made, as has only become clearer in retrospect, it did nonetheless capture the intellectual climate of the times. There was during liberalism's heyday -- from say the early 1930's through the 1970's --something disreputable about conservatism and conservative thought. The Left's political and cultural hegemony was so complete that to question it smacked of heresy, if not lunacy. Wisely, William F. Buckley -- who wrote God and Man at Yale in 1951 and founded National Review in 1955 -- took full advantage of the situation and was instrumental in crafting a magazine and a conservatism that reveled in its paradoxical anti-establishment positioning. He famously declared that National Review: "stands athwart history yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it." But National Review and the cast of colorful characters that Mr. Buckley assembled would have gotten nowhere if all they did was yell. What they did was far more insidious: they dared to belittle liberalism, to poke fun at its pretensions, and, as in the fairy tale, eventually made even the Emperor realize he had no clothes.

By all accounts, one of the smartest things Mr. Buckley ever did was to bring in his sister, Priscilla, to ride herd on the unusual and sometimes difficult personalities at NR -- Willmoore Kendall, Frank S. Meyer; James Burnham; Whittaker Chambers; Russell Kirk; Jeffrey Hart; etc. -- and to shepherd young talent, of which there was an embarrassment of riches -- Joan Didion; Garry Wills; Richard Brookhiser; David Brooks; etc.. Ms Buckley was a professional journalist in her own right, a correspondent of United Press in its Paris bureau, but agreed to pitch in at her brother's new magazine, as indeed nearly every member of that large family seems to have done at one time or another for varying lengths of time. But it was Ms Buckley who stayed there longest--longer even than her brother--and, given her pivotal role in the day to day operations, may have left the biggest imprint on the magazine.

Less a detailed history of National Review than an anecdote driven reminiscence, Ms Buckley intersperses a variety of family memories as well and every other chapter relates a hunting trip, ballooning expedition or some such that she went on over the years. Ms Buckley is adept at spinning a yarn and, what with living an extraordinarily active life at the center of fifty years of politics, has accumulated plenty of material from which to choose her favorites. The whole ends up being a personal as well as a professional memoir and an immensely enjoyable one.


Grade: (A)


Priscilla Buckley Links:

    -EXCERPT: Fun & Games: Are you familiar with National Review’s very own Pentagon Papers? (Priscilla L. Buckley, Living it Up at National Review)
    -ESSAY: An Odd, Sad Waif (Priscilla L. Buckley, March 10, 1964, National Review)
    -ESSAY: Sailing the Seine (Priscilla Buckley, Feb 21, 1994, National Review)
    -TRIBUTE: Au revoir, Priscilla (National Review, Jan 20, 1992)
    -ARCHIVES: "priscilla buckley" (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW: of Living It Up with National Review: A Memoir By Priscilla L. Buckley (Steven Martinovich, Enter Stage Right)
    -REVIEW: of Living It Up with National Review (Linda Bridges, National Review)
    -REVIEW: of Living It Up with National Review(Mona Charen, Townhall)
    -REVIEW: of Living it Up (Danielle Crittenden, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of String of Pearls: On the News Beat in New York and Paris By Priscilla L. Buckley (Jeffery Hart, National Review)
    -REVIEW: of String of Pearls (Jennifer Sweeney, Townhall)
    -REVIEW: of String of Pearls (RUTH BAYARD SMITH, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Joys of National Review, 1955 to 1980 edited by Priscilla Buckley (Terry Teachout, National Review)

Book-related and General Links:

She is the flute in our conservative orchestra, who taught, by example, the compatibility of political commitment and generosity of spirit.
    -George F. Will

Those were wonderful days at National Review. It was like being on the 1927 Yankees , with the Babe and Lou Gehrig, or the 1961 team, with Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

Look at the lineup that started with Bill Buckley: James Burnham, Russell Kirk, Frank Meyer, Ernest van den Haag, William Rickenbacker, Chilton Williamson, John Simon, Nika Hazelton, Joe Sobran, Rich Brookhiser, Linda Bridges, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, John Leonard, Tom Wolfe, and on down the line. The managing editor, Priscilla Buckley, was probably the nicest woman ever to edit a magazine, and definitely one of the best wordsmiths around. She humored me and encouraged me nonstop, and I shall always be indebted to her. The great James Burnham even came to Greece once on holiday and spent a day with me trying to teach me some writing tricks. (More paragraphs; it makes it easier for the editor.)

If it sounds idyllic, it was. We had all embarked on a great crusade against liberalism, the Evil Empire, the omnipotent state, and other threats to our freedoms.

    -The Bum Frum (Taki, 4/23/03, American Conservative)

    -REVIEW: of Principles and Heresies: Frank S. Meyer and the Shaping of the American Conservative Movement, by Kevin J. Smant (Rammesh Ponnuru, National Review)