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In the Arena

by Rachel Currie

A Man and His Presidents: The Political Odyssey of William F. Buckley Jr., by Alvin S. Felzenberg (Yale, 456 pp., $35)

William F. Buckley Jr. made enormous contributions to America’s publishing industry during his life, and he has continued to do so, albeit indirectly, in the nine years since his death. He has been the subject of two beautifully written memoirs — one by his son, Christopher, the other by NR’s Richard Brookhiser — along with biographies by Heritage Foundation scholar Lee Edwards and Roger Williams University law professor Carl Bogus. In 2015, the Devault-Graves Agency published the complete transcripts of Buckley’s famous 1968 debates with Gore Vidal, and University of Illinois at Chicago historian Kevin Schultz published a study of Buckley’s turbulent friendship with Norman Mailer. A year later, James Rosen of Fox News published an edited collection of Buckley’s best eulogies, while MIT film and media professor Heather Hendershot published a history of Firing Line, Buckley’s long-running weekly debate show.

The sheer number of WFB-related titles confirms his enduring impact on American intellectual life. Yet at this point, even the biggest Buckley fans might be excused for wondering, “Do we really need another book about the Great Man’s influence?” Alvin Felzenberg believes the answer is yes, and his new book proves him right. Part biography and part political history, A Man and His Presidents offers a veritable Thanksgiving feast for Buckleyologists.

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