Thursday, July 09, 2009

Garry Wills: The magnanimous apostate

William F. Buckley once joked that he worried that he was running a “finishing school for apostates” at National Review. He hired a number of talented young writersJoan Didion, John Leonard, Arlene Crocewho left the magazine and became decidedly non-conservative writers and journalists.

The sharpest break came with former seminarian Garry Wills. He had the highest profile at the magazine and the longest tenure there. His move to the left sparked two decades of low intensity conflict between himself and NR.

Despite that, Wills wrote several memorable pieces about working at the magazine in its original incarnation. (E.g. in his book Lead Time.)

He has a new piece in The Atlantic on WFB. It is brilliant journalism: warm, generous, balanced, and insightful. Wills was to be Buckley’s biographer so he knows the full man as few do. He also knew WFB as boss, friend, and mentor before Buckley became an icon and institution.

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