Not William F. Buckley again.
Please, not another love letter to the late intellectual conservative hero in another New York Times Book Review. I thought I already made it clear how I felt about this. But here goes Jacob Heilbrunn’s review of George Will’s One Man’s America:
When William F. Buckley Jr. died a few months ago, George F. Will, who dedicates “One Man’s America” to him, became, perhaps, the right’s most enduring elder statesman.
I think I recently made it clear to the NYTBR’s editors how I feel about George Will too. But do they listen?
Folks, I do understand that for many modern conservatives William F. Buckley’s droll and charismatic visage shines like the signal from a distant lighthouse on a foggy day. I understand that Republican true believers need something to cling to following the wreckage of the Bush/Cheney administration, and I can see why Buckley’s witty toughness makes him an attractive beacon. But still, by indulging this William F. Buckley man-crush so often and so relentlessly, the NYTBR editors ignore the concerns and tastes of a large portion of their constituency. Many NYTBR readers, myself included, do not care whether or not America’s intellectual conservative/Republican base manages to find its bearings again. I am pretty sure it will, but those of us who are as devoted to liberal and progressive principles as William F. Buckley and George F. Will and Sam Tanenhaus are devoted to conservative principles simply feel left out by this hyperbole.
It’s like a few months ago when a conservative friend of mine (with whom I have an ongoing two-year-plus debate on various topics) tried to explain to me the vast, intricate differences between the John McCain wing of the Republican party and the anti-John McCain (say, pro Mitt-Romney) wing of the Republican party, a gulf big enough, he tried to explain to me, to drive an aircraft carrier through. But, I explained to him, I don’t care about the difference between the John McCain wing of the Republican party and the Mitt Romney wing of the Republican party because I hope and believe Barack Obama will be our next president. Likewise, I don’t care if George F. Will has inherited William F. Buckley’s role as “the right’s most enduring elder statesman” because I don’t think either of these thinkers offer much for America’s future.
A large portion of the NYTBR readership would like better representation of political commentators like Noam Chomsky, or Harold Pinter, or Michael Moore, or Samantha Power, or Philip Gourevitch, or Howard Zinn. We don’t begrudge any Buckley fans their pleasure in whatever positive message the drawling Yalie offers them, but we wish this influence were not so relentlessly dominant in this important publication. We are also part of the NYTBR’s constituency and we are underrepresented in the publication, week after week.
Now … I’m off to father’s day festivities. I promise it’s NOT because I’m having a snit-fit about Jacob Heilbrunn’s (otherwise good) article about George Will and William F. Buckley that I’m going to skip reviewing the bulk of today’s NYTBR. There are some excellent reviews here, and I’m highly satisfied by Robert Macfarlane on Mohammed Hanif’s A Case of Exploding Mangoes and Will Blythe on a new edition of James Agee’s A Death in the Family. A tennis game and a backyard barbecue calls, so I just have to take a summer half-day here. I’ll be back in full force next week, I promise!