Sunday, May 25, 2008

Navasky on Buckley

This one goes to my two major preoccupations: Carey McWilliams and Ramparts magazine.

In a recent New York Times book review, Victor Navasky, publisher emeritus of The Nation, mentions McWilliams in his remarks on books by or about William F. Buckley. Navasky's book, A Matter of Opinion, also noted the similarity between the two men. Somewhere on this blog I passed along the fact that Lou Cannon, Reagan's biographer, once sent out 40 letters trying to interest people in his first book, on Reagan and Jesse Unruh. He got exactly two replies, from McWilliams and Buckley.

But Buckley had a Ramparts connection, too. On Firing Line, he debated Robert Scheer during the magazine's heyday. In my forthcoming book, I argue that Buckley had at least two reasons for being interested in the San Francisco muckraker. First, it started as a Catholic magazine, and Buckley was a lifelong and very vocal Catholic. Its transition to radical muckraking must have been a source of concern. Second, Ramparts exposed the CIA, for which Buckley had been an agent before starting The National Review.

I tried to interview Buckley in what I didn't realize was the last month of his life. His note said he was so far behind on other work that he couldn't spare the time.

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