Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

A Review of Strictly Right

I recently read, Strictly Right: William F. Buckley Jr. and the American Conservative Movement. I was very excited to come across this book. In fact, I asked for it as a present. I have been following WFB since I was a teenager and couldn't wait to get a full picture of his professional life and his role within conservatism and the Republican Party.

Unfortunately, this is not the book for that.

Strictly Right is written from an insider's perspective, but a completely uncritical, cloying one. There is more time spent of social details about National Review parties and what type of hostess and decorator Buckley's wife was than on editorial debates and business decisions. I was dumbfounded to have to wade through minute details of who skied with who and which daughter of this important person used to ride horses with this other important person when they were young. You will learn nothing about Firing Line, but a great deal about chateaus by the time you're finished. There's also a surprising amount of space is given to each Buckley novel, including excerpts.

The authors, who were both involved in NR and Republican politics, can't resist being a substantial part of the story, turning it into more of a memoir of their experiences than a true account of Buckley's life and impact. You'll wonder why so much time is spent on Spiro Agnew, who one of the authors worked for. Additionally, they reference themselves throughout with the odd device "one of the present authors" such as "one of the present authors recalls". You'll also find pages of shallow American history, such as a retelling of Vietnam, for little purpose other than filling pages.

For people who were supposedly such insiders, I don't know that you will gain any actual insight into WFB or learn new details that have not been made public elsewhere. It reads more like a scrapbook for former employees of NR, with an emphasis on staff personalities and health problems, the social calendar and the authors' own experience.