Getting It Right: A Novel Hardcover – Jan 1 2003
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From 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.
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It's become a truism that the groundwork for GOP success since 1980 was laid in the 1950s and in the 1964 Goldwater presidential campaign. Buckley himself was a player then--part of what this historical novel's characters label "the National Review crowd"--but that group is absent here. Instead, Buckley focuses on two of the conservative movement's more controversial elements: the fervently anti-Communist John Birch Society and Ayn Rand's "objectivism." Woodroe (Woody) Raynor witnesses (and is shot in) the 1956 Hungarian Revolution while doing Mormon missionary work across the border in Austria. He returns to attend Princeton and becomes a Birch Society operative on graduation. At the founding meeting of the Young Americans for Freedom (at Buckley's mother's Connecticut estate), Woody meets Leonora Goldstein, an acolyte in "the Collective" surrounding Ayn Rand. Through the eyes of these committed young conservatives, the reader examines Birchers and Randians and witnesses key events: the enrollment of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi, the Cuban missile crisis, JFK's assassination, the Warren Commission's deliberations, the 1964 presidential campaign, and growing U.S. military involvement in Vietnam. In a sense, this novel is "triumphalist" history: Buckley's crowd largely won the 1960s battle for the soul of the Republican Party. Expect his latest novel to appeal most powerfully to readers whose political attitudes match those of National Review. Mary Carroll
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Top Customer Reviews
As a younger conservative, I wasn't all that familiar with the John Birch crowd. Older teachers in the faculty room often accused me of being a "Bircher" because I was a conservative. This book introduced me to the more hysterical elements of anti-communism.
So where does modern conservatism come from? It seems to me that this book is an allegory, not a history. It is no mistake that the former Objectivist and the former Bircher get married in the end, and he goes off to fight in Vietnam. In a way, this is exactly what happened to the conservative movement. Philosophically speaking, the modern conservative coalition is made up of social conservatives and libertarians, among others. This book is effective as an allegory showing this philosophical development. Artfully done!
Anyway, one of the best insights here was when Goldwater's aides were explaining to him the philosophy of Ayn Rand. The 'street' politics, as Buckley refers to them here, are nudged both directly and indirectly by these intellectual and fringe movements. Think Ayn Rand's high-brow philosophy had no effect on modern Republican thought? Guess again (also, see Greenspan). For me, it underscored how any standing "President" is truly just a figurehead for a broader movement when so many seem to overlook this and assume that he is where it all starts and ends......or "voting for the man", as I've heard it put. In other words, George Bush doesn't have to know the intricacies of everything that happens in relation to foreign policy because he's not basing decisions merely on his personal ideas anyway. That wasn't the point of the book, but an interesting aspect of it, I thought.
If you are far too into politics, as I am, you'll definitely enjoy this insight into the forces that determined the direction of the conservative movement in the last century.
I was disappointed that Mr. Buckley did not seem to conduct the level of research one would except from someone of his stature. The number of inacuracies about Mormons and Utah is surprising. Couldn't he get a NR intern to do some basic fact checking? Some things are minor like his mentioning the University of Salt Lake City which does not exist, or that Woodroe is from a town north of the Salt Lake. Look at a map, there are no towns on the north end of the Great Salt Lake.
Most incredible are the situations he puts Woodroe in early in the book when he is serving as a missionary. LDS missionaries always work and travel in pairs, but Buckley totally ignores this basic tenant so he can get his main character into situations that would not happen to a normal missionary.
Later in the book it turns out that Woodroe is not all that commited to his faith. Buckley could have developed his character better to show why this happened.
I am not as familiar with the other institutions that he tackles in the book (The JBS and Ayn Rand) but if he was as sloppy in representing them as he was the Mormons than there is probably more fiction in this work than meets the eye.
During this era, Buckley, Russell Kirk, Whitaker Chambers, and others were defining, in the pages of National Review, the parameters of conservatism as we understand it today. In so doing, they strove to establish their breed of conservatism as the dominant ideology of anti-Communism, while such firebrands as Ayn Rand and the John Birch Society's Robert Welch adopted a fiercer, more confrontational demeanor. /Getting it Right/ is Buckley's account of how Rand and Welch estranged themselves from the emerging conservative silent majority. Buckley is fair to both and displays a keen understanding of how Rand and Welch each captivated their respective sects. Presently, Rand's legacy is more enduring and I expect that Buckley's portrayal of Rand as a shrew who may have "created an entire . . .Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This book should be read as part of a three-part process. First read Philip K. Dick's "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch," then this book, and finish with "The Illuminatis... Read morePublished on June 15 2004 by Steve Thulen
Bill Buckley is a giant of intellect and a hero of the conservative movement. This novel details influential times in his life. Read morePublished on June 14 2004 by Steven R. Travers
Both critics and admirers of William F. Buckley credit him with sanitizing the Right. By writing many dissenting voices out of polite society, they say that Buckley made the modern... Read morePublished on April 19 2004 by Marcus Epstein
Doing no research of his own, Buckley relies almost exclusively upon the biography of Rand by Barbara Branden. This has been thoroughly refuted by schoars like James Valliant. Read morePublished on Sept. 8 2003
I've occasionally enjoyed William F. Buckley's Blackford Oakes novels, but "Getting It Right" is by the far the worst novel he's written. Read morePublished on Sept. 2 2003 by John Kwok
A fascinating, full of facts William F. Buckley's "Getting It Right" is a must read for every young conservative. Read morePublished on June 24 2003 by A. Michshenko
This novel is in all respects delightful, in both a historical and fictional sense. Is there a better man to tell the tale of this era in OUR history?Published on June 22 2003 by RWR
I enjoyed this book, but not as a novel. It is better read as a light, but accurate history of the times. Read morePublished on May 3 2003 by Perry Lassiter