Archive for the ‘Books’ category

Good as Goldwater

May 27, 2008

My review of Pure Goldwater, a volume of Barry Goldwater’s journals (and some other odds and ends), is now up on Reason‘s website.

I’m reading Bill Buckley’s posthumous Goldwater memoir, Flying High, right now. Here’s one striking anecdote I hadn’t heard before:

… at this dinner [for the 1950s Freeman], Rand contradicted Mises on some doctrinal point, causing the eminent professor to stop eating and mobilize his scorn and fury on her. Ayn Rand thereupon burst into tears and exclaimed, “You are treating me like an ignorant little Jewish girl!”

Mises jumped up from his chair with joy. “That is exactly what you are! An ignorant little Jewish girl!”

Rand was not one to be crossed lightly. But even she might have known better than to gainsay Ludwig von Mises.

Nockians Left and Right

May 25, 2008

From Victor Navasky’s NYT review of two books by or about William F. Buckley (thanks to Scott Lahti for an early link to the piece):

It is probably no accident, as the old-left journals used to say, that both Buckley and Carey McWilliams, The Nation’s longtime editor, were fans of Albert Jay Nock, who after briefly working at The Nation in the 1920s went on to found his own libertarian magazine called The Freeman (the rights to which Buckley sought unsuccessfully to buy when he began National Review). Nock started out as a left-wing anarchist and bohemian, but he metamorphosed into an anti-egalitarian who believed that journals of opinion were aimed at what he called the Remnant, the enlightened few who would influence the many.

“Bohemian” is a better description of Nock’s one-time American Magazine colleague John Reed; Nock was more of an anti-institutionalist than a party animal, and he remained one to the end (just look at the passages on marriage and organized religion in Memoirs of a Superfluous Man). “Left-wing anarchist” is misleading as well: Nock was an individualist anarchist heavily influenced by Henry George. He was far from being an anarcho-syndicalist, which is what “left-wing anarchist” might be taken to mean. Navasky probably doesn’t mean to suggest that, but the contrast he wants to draw between the the early and the late Nock is not accurate. The sharp contrast is between the Tolstoyan sensibility of the pre-World War I Nock and the partly Cram-inspired pessimistic Nock of later years.

Buckley’s relationship to Nock is pretty well known — WFB Sr. was a friend of AJN, and WFB Jr. often paid homage to Nock — but I had not known about Carey McWilliam’s admiration for him.

Postscript: For what it’s worth — we Nock aficionados can be a punctilious lot — Navasky’s dates are wrong, too. Nock worked for The Nation during World War I, not the 1920s, and even got the magazined censored when he wrote critically about Samuel Gompers. Bad for the labor-business-government war effort, don’t ya know. He launched The Freeman, with Francis Neilson as co-editor (in name, at least), in 1920.

A Conservative History of the American Left

May 14, 2008

One more review to plug today: my take on Daniel Flynn’s A Conservative History of the American Left, which is now up (and going on the main page tomorrow, I think) at the American Spectator‘s website.

A Conservative History of the American Left

The New Buchanan Book

May 14, 2008

With a title like Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, Pat Buchanan’s new book might seem designed to court controversy. But that’s not the case, at least not as far as I have been able to tell from the first 100 pages. For one thing, “Unnecessary War” is not Buchanan’s phrase, it’s Churchill’s. Buchanan was spurred to write the book by a letter he received from George Kennan after he sent Kennan a copy of A Republic, Not an Empire. Kennan agreed with Buchanan’s view in the earlier book that the British guarantee of Poland’s security “was neither necessary nor wise” (in Kennan’s words). The new book expands on that idea, among many others.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft reviews Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, alongside volumes by John Lukacs, Nicholson Baker, and Lynne Olson, here. Wheatcroft is critical of Buchanan (“Although Buchanan’s argument isn’t stupid, it requires something like a historiographical sleight of hand, and is conducted backward, as it were”), but he isn’t romantic about Churchill:

Churchill led the way in cruel, brutish, and exterminatory war-making against women and children partly thanks to his uncompromising personality, partly thanks to what was seen as the logic of the situation. Three years after he hoped for “devastating, exterminating” attacks on civilians, he was shown blazing German towns filmed from the air, and exclaimed, “Are we beasts? Have we taken this too far?” And two years after that he tried (not very creditably) to dissociate himself from the destruction of Dresden by Bomber Command.

There’s much more of a Churchill cult in America than in his (and Wheatcroft’s) home country. A reconsideration of him is long overdue.

The Revolution Reviewed

May 14, 2008

The season of Kauffmaniana continues, as Bill takes a look at Ron Paul’s book over at Taki’s Magazine. Here’s a taste:

As for the word “isolationist,” which I’ve always thought had a nice pacific ring to it, Rep. Paul gives taxonomic reversal the old college try. He tags the unilateral bullies of the Bush administration “isolationists” and avers, “I favor the very opposite of isolation: diplomacy, free trade, and freedom of travel.” And ‘tis true that the “isolationist” Paul was the only GOP presidential hopeful to support lifting sanctions against Cuba.

He fires off this nice line: “Mine is an ‘isolationist’ position only to those who believe that the world’s peoples can interact with each other only through their governments, or only through the intermediary of a supranational bureaucracy.”

Update: Dave Weigel offers a Reason-ed review of The Revolution here, while Stacy McCain reviews Bill’s book over at The American Spectator on-line.

Fewer Bases, More Baseball

May 12, 2008

My review of Ain’t My America: The Long, Noble History of Anti-War Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism is now on-line. And here’s author Bill Kauffman’s review of Ginger Strand’s Inventing Niagara, from Thursday’s Wall Street Journal.

George Will on Nixonland and a Reflection on 1958

May 10, 2008

Two items of particular interest in tomorrow’s edition (on line today) of the New York Times Book Review. First, there’s George Will’s take on Nixonland, the new book by Rick Perlstein, who, though a man of the Left himself, wrote a classic account of the Goldwater movement in his last book, Before the Storm. (Lew Rockwell’s review of that earlier work is here.) Perlstein has become one of my favorite political writers on the strength of these two books, though so far I’ve only had a chance to glance through Nixonland — it’s a 900-page doorstop. Once I’ve read it properly, I’ll write about it myself.

The 40th anniversary of 1968 — year of Gene McCarthy, LBJ dropping out, the French New Left taking Paris, the King and RFK assassinations, and all the rest — has been garnering a lot of coverage (including in the forthcoming issue of The American Conservative, wherein Bill Kauffman writes about what was right about the New Left), but the Times‘ Rachel Donadio look back a decade earlier in “1958: War of the Intellectuals,” which isn’t actually a very interesting piece, to be honest, but I flag it up for its Dwight Macdonald content. Any mention of Dwight is worth a bit of notice.

Meanwhile, I’m holed up in my garret working on a book review and a short article about Phyllis Schlafly. Will post some details once those pieces are written and on their way toward publication, God, and editors, willing.

Bill Kauffman Reviews A Conservative History of the American Left

May 8, 2008

I have a review of Dan Flynn’s new book written and awaiting publication, but in the meantime, Tory Anarchist readers will certainly enjoy Bill Kauffman’s take on the book at First Principles.

And if you’re in the D.C. area, don’t forget to come to Bill Kauffman’s event at the Cato Institute tomorrow. I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks.

What Was Great About Goldwater

May 4, 2008

From Lou Cannon’s review of Pure Goldwater and Flying High in the Washington Post:

In 1958, as related in Buckley’s memoir Flying High, Goldwater charged that Walter Reuther and his United Auto Workers “are a more dangerous menace than the Sputniks, or anything Russia might do.” Goldwater hurled around the words “socialist” and “socialistic,” using them to describe domestic policies of FDR and Harry Truman, the attitudes of various reporters and columnists, and the relatively timid proposals of the Eisenhower administration to spend federal money on health care and education. Goldwater refused, in Buckley’s words, to “bend with the spirit of the age.”

Of course, Cannon considers these bad things, or at least stances that put Goldwater far outside the realm of electability. The latter is probably true, though in ’64 all it took to stop Goldwater from getting elected was the recent memory of JFK’s assassination. It was game over from day one.

Cannon doesn’t talk too much about either book. You can get my take on Pure Goldwater in the current (June) issue of Reason. I should have a review of William F. Buckley’s posthumous Goldwater book, Flying High running elsewhere a few months down the line, if all goes well. I’ll post the details on that at the appropriate time.

Two Reviews for You

April 27, 2008

The May June issue of Reason includes my review of Pure Goldwater, the John Dean and Barry Goldwater Jr.-edited collection of the late senator’s journals. The May 5 issue of The American Conservative, meanwhile, features my piece on Bill Kauffman’s Ain’t My America. Both books, coincidentally enough, are published by Palgrave-Macmillan, which is also home to James Bovard.

The magazine’s probably won’t be hitting bookstores and subscribers’ mailboxes for about 10 days or a little more — print has its advantages, but alacrity isn’t one of them. In the meantime, here’s a link to Dean and Goldwater Jr. discussing their book at the Huffington Post.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.