Getting It Right

Getting It Right

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by William F. Buckley Jr., William F. Buckley

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Founder of National Review, Bill Buckley gives us a witty and unusual novel, which charts the birth of the American modern conservative movement. From the Hungarian uprising of 1956, to Cold War espionage, tempestuous romance, and political skuilduggery, Buckley provides a rare insight in to the people and times of 1960s America. Getting it Right reveals how the


Founder of National Review, Bill Buckley gives us a witty and unusual novel, which charts the birth of the American modern conservative movement. From the Hungarian uprising of 1956, to Cold War espionage, tempestuous romance, and political skuilduggery, Buckley provides a rare insight in to the people and times of 1960s America. Getting it Right reveals how the political movement that eventually came together to elect Ronald Reagan president first had to purge itself of cranks, crazies, conspirators - and even spies. No novel by William F. Buckley Jr. has ever been written with such verve, personal passion, and raw authenticity.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Buckley's point seems to be that the Republican Party of the era needed to purge itself of its radical elements so that it could develop into the more palatably conservative juggernaut it would become under Reagan and the Bushes. This is both a thunderingly obvious bit of historical analysis — a message the National Review delivered far more persuasively back in the day — and a blunt hook upon which to hang this thin, pale novel. — John Strausbaugh
Eleven years ago I began sharing with the readers of this space my insights on some of the books I read during summer "vacation." Summers have expanded because of my somewhat lighter load of FORBES traveling, speaking and columns. In short, "summer" reading now goes on most of the year, particularly during long flights to Asia, of which there are still several each year.

First I call your attention to 2001's Churchill, a Biography--by Roy Jenkins (paperback: Plume, $18). Of all the works on Winston Churchill (and the list of books about him is approaching the length of the list of Abraham Lincoln biographies), I would nominate Jenkins' biography as one of the best--although William Manchester's unfinished study is great, too.

Jenkins, who performed similar services for prime ministers William Ewart Gladstone, Herbert Henry Asquith and Stanley Baldwin, as well as for others of historic significance, was superbly gifted with experi-ence (50 years at or near the top of British and European politics) and had the opportunity to observe Churchill during the 16 years they served together in the House of Commons. Jenkins' recent death has deprived us of the further biographies we were all anticipating.

Churchill is, on the whole, admiring, but it is certainly no hagiography. The last sentences disclose the fairness and the fullness of this great biography: "When I started writing this book I thought that Gladstone was, by a narrow margin, the greater man, certainly the more remarkable specimen of humanity. In the course of writing it I have changed my mind. I now put Churchill, with all his idiosyncrasies, his indulgences, his occasional childishness, but also his genius, histenacity and his persistent ability, right or wrong, successful or unsuccessful, to be larger than life, as the greatest human being ever to occupy 10 Downing Street."

Next I want to call attention to two books that have two things in common: both are by Buckleys--father and son, respectively--and are therefore distinguished by first-rate writing, great narrative skill and a splendid appreciation of the historic and the comic.

Getting It Right--by William F. Buckley Jr. (Regnery, $24.95)--continues Bill Buckley's series of turn-ing the history (perhaps too narrow a canvas here) of 20th-century American politics into exciting novels. And, of course, the author himself is a participant in many of the incidents. In Getting It Right we see what Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society, and the impressive, puzzling and enormously influential (for a short time) Ayn Rand were really like. Rand's novels about the beginning of the conservative movement rivaled the Harry Potter novels in sales. Now it's hard to know quite why, as Rand's writing was unexceptional. Probably her loss of fame is be-cause conservative thought and philosophies--so unusual at the time--have become so much a part of the conventional wisdom that her writings have lost their shock value. Welch and Rand had offshoots that had to be exorcised and dealt with before conservatism could be accepted. Buckley was the major force behind making conservatism appealing, un-derstandable and respectable.

Washington Schlepped Here--by Christopher Buckley (Crown Journeys, $16)--is an incredibly good guidebook to our nation's capital. Even the most ancient of Washington's cave dwellers who are reputed to know every-thing will have a lot to learn about their city from young Buckley. Christopher, a comparative newcomer, has mined the sources assid-uously, without ever losing his extra-ordinary comic talents. There are few--if any--better descriptions of the Freer Gallery of Art's Peacock Room. And I'd be surprised if many Lincoln scholars are familiar with Lincoln's cas-ual dismissal of criticism of the Gettysburg Address: "Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a differ-ence of purpose between the Almighty and them." When it comes time for your children or grandchildren's school class to visit Washington, the best preparation they or anyone could have would be to read this book.

Then I read two too short books with similar themes: An Italian Affair--by Laura Fraser (Vintage Books, $12) and A Thousand Days in Venice--by Marlena de Blasi (Ballantine Books, $12.95). In both of these books an American woman, each an excellent book, has her dreams of romance in Italy come true--at least for a time. Ms. Fraser's book is far superior, probably because of a general lightheartedness and her obvious joy in her love affair. In both books, the local color and the descriptions of the mouthwatering Italian dishes are superb. These books are among the best recruiting weapons Italy's tourism authority could wish for.

And last I read a truly small, delightful book for dog lovers: Why Dogs Do That--by Tom Davis (Wil-low Creek Press, $13.95). An earlier Davis work, Just Goldens, chronicles the lives and skills of golden retriev-ers. Why Dogs Do That answers several puzzling questions, such as why dogs bury bones; why dogs insist on sleeping in bed with their masters; and why some dogs howl. (Sadly there's no reasonable explanation for the blood-curdling noises emitted occasionally--usually around midnight--by my golden retriever.) This book is a splendid addi-tion to dog lore. It should enable you to understand at least some of your dog's puzzling, but always lovable, behavior.
—Caspar Weinberger

Publishers Weekly
Author, columnist and National Review founder Buckley offers a sentimental bildungsroman about a young man's initiation into the mid-century American conservative movement. In 1956, a 19-year-old Mormon missionary, Woodroe Raynor, is assigned to fieldwork in Austria, near the Hungarian border. He loses his virginity to a Hungarian woman and is wounded as he watches Russian tanks quell the Hungarian uprising. The bullet wound is nothing, however, compared to the psychic pain of learning that his paramour is a Communist sympathizer. Woodroe later attends Princeton and begins working for the John Birch Society. He has a love affair with an Ayn Rand acolyte, leading to some heady epistolary debates about whether Rand or Birch Society founder Robert Welch is better prepared to eradicate Communism. Rand is unmasked (yet again) as a sexually and intellectually manipulative egomaniac, and the wisdom of the National Review and its staff is affirmed regularly. Vivid historical passages about the Cuban missile crisis and the Kennedy assassination, as well as cameo appearances by John Dos Passos and Alan Greenspan, are a welcome diversion from the mostly stilted prose (a sex scene between Rand and a lover is described this way: "Today her lover was being welcomed with synaesthetical concern for all the senses.... But as he lay and later groaned with writhing and release, he brought the full force of his mind to transmuted, voluptarian elation in this physical union..."). Between the self-congratulatory tone and the flat characters, the novel will appeal primarily to Buckley's devoted fans. (Mar.) Forecast: Booksellers who hand sell this book to readers with conservative political interests should do well. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Buckley, whose writing is so polished that he could turn the Yellow Pages into a spy novel or the federal budget into a sparkling memoir, turns his nostalgic gaze back to the 1960s, when the John Birch Society first emerged. Those were the years of the Kennedy assassination, Warren Commission, powering up of the Vietnam War, and Cuban missile crisis. In Buckley's roman clef, the American political Right gets more than a shot in the arm from the Birchers, while the Objectivists are busy giving it a kick in the pants. The steely leader of the Objectivists is author Ayn Rand of Atlas Shrugged fame, and Buckley sends up her (and her minions) like a Roman candle. Gussying up the epic struggle with a hearts-and-flowers romance between a Bircher and an Objectivist, Buckley has a lot of fun with the period. And if any reader doubts the truth of the story, there are footnotes aplenty. For most libraries where Buckley already fills shelves with his massive oeuvre.-Barbara Conaty, Library of Congress Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The honey-voiced prophet of the conservative revival (Spytime, 2000, etc.) runs his hands fondly and semifictionally through the mementos of the past half-century. Those were the days, weren't they? When it looked as though the New Dealers and their offspring had a death grip on the machinery of government. When the Rockefeller wing and the Eisenhower wing and the Scranton wing soared in collaborationist triumph with their Democratic birds of a feather on the thermals drifting up over the so-so-misguided capital. And everyone thought that was normal and desirable! When the fate of the great land rested in the hands of microscopic groups of right thinkers. When Ayn Rand was alive and still objectifying. When Robert Welch was just beginning to turn his attention from the family candy works to the invention of the John Birch Society. When the Young Americans for Freedom were driving on learners' permits. What a great task lay ahead of those visionaries! Even in their wildest dreams could they have envisioned, say, Fox News? Perhaps only Miss Rand had had that kind of vision. She certainly looms large in this sentimental bit of fiction built on the framework of real-life rise of the Right. Woodroe Raynor is the trusty young Mormon on whom Buckley hangs his triumphal tale. During his missionary year in postwar Austria, young Woodroe discovers the evils of communism and the wonders of sex in one night across the last footbridge leading to Hungary. Looking for further education in both fields, the lad stumbles into the 1956 revolution, barely making it back to the West, taking a bullet in the thigh and a dagger in the heart when he discovers his girlfriend is in bed with the commies. Limpingback to Princeton, Raynor goes on to become a pioneer staffer at the new John Birch Society, just misses another bullet fired by Lee Harvey Oswald, falls in love with one of Ayn Rand's handmaidens, gets to know just about everyone who mattered on the Right, and finally comes around to the blue-blooded, temperate wisdom of the National Review. Serious, important political history narrated by Dame Barbara Cartland.

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Regnery Publishing
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6.04(w) x 8.86(h) x 0.89(d)

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Getting It Right 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
William Buckley has attempted to fictionalize the substance of his ideological dispute with Ayn Rand, the famous novelist. Alas, its focus is not ideological but purely personal, and this book amounts to nothing but an personal attack. Moreover, it is an inaccurate one, as well. For his evidence, Buckley selectively relies upon highly discredited sources (like the Brandens) when it suits them, and ignores them when it does not. This book is poorly written and highly inaccurate. Rand's relationship with such early Right figures as John Chmaberlain and Henry Hazlitt predates Buckley's own--and survived his alleged 'purge' of Rand from the Conservative Movement (to which Rand had never applied for membership.) Rand's influence produced top advisors to President Reagan and even Fed Chairman Greenspan. Buckley may wish to marginalize Rand in the eyes of history, but he cannot. Buckley's thesis of 'right thinkers' having to 'purge' (as he did) such elements simply ignores history, fact and logic. It amounts to wishful thinking on Buckley's part. Unfortunately, this book, in so many ways, reveals the author's deep bigotry against any who, like Rand, disagree with him about religion.
Guest More than 1 year ago
William Buckley needs a novel to be his vehicle of attack on Rand, since it is both fiction and ad hominem. But to make-up dialogue that he (no expert on Rand's thought) supposes Rand would have engaged in is too much. It is just as juvenile as the old Doonesbury cartoons spoofing Reagan or Bush were--and just as substantive. Buckley takes as gospel the well-refuted work of the Brandens, sources he would otherwise dismiss out of hand (say, for their own criticisms of Buckley.) No matter, Buckley builds fiction upon fiction. Murray Rothbard and Jerome Tuccille and Kay Nolte Smith and others have done much the same. Few intellectual figures have been so unfairly fictionalized as Rand. The weakness of Buckley's case can be measured by the very comparison of Rand to the John Birch leadership. Have the Birchers produced a Greenspan or a Martin Anderson? Do their students populate the great think-tanks? Envy of Rand's appeal to the young has long motivated Buckley, as has a desire to justify his magazine's brutally unfair review of Atlas Shrugged (whose ideas were actually compared to Nazism!!) Buckley, while his magazine has been a powerful tool for the Right, has himself achieved nothing of intellectual substance. Rand will endure the Ages.