A HYMNAL: The Controversial Arts by

A HYMNAL: The Controversial Arts

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KIRKUS REVIEW

After 15 books, thousands of newspaper columns and television appearances, we know what to expect from the Protagoras of American conservatives: a combative, aggressive prose--saturated with dictionary-defying vocabulary--that's aimed at liberal sacred cows and illiterate conservative reflexes alike, plus a sprinkling of well-chosen descents into contemporary cultural phenomena. This collection of some one hundred pieces of varying length--only one previously unpublished--amply fulfills these expectations. Discoursing on topics from the ""collapse"" of Saigun to David Niven's Hollywood, from sailing to capital punishment, Buckley never fails to score points easily--how could he when every contest is on his court? He pummels the likes of Lillian Hellman, Richard Reeves, The New Yorker, J. K. Galbraith and other academic luminaries, Paul Robeson, and Linus Pauling. Sometimes he merely corrects their grammar or their logic; other times--too many times--he calls forth the ghosts of Hitler and Stalin (his favorite specters) to accuse his victims of complicity in mass murder. Along the way he pronounces Sacco and Vanzetti guilty, supports France's executions, practically nominates Whittaker Chambers for a Boy Scout honor badge, and heaps profuse and unsurprising praise on the Gospel according to Solzhenitsyn. Buckley aspires to be pre-eminent among those conservatives who read books and argue reasonably, but his own limited capability as a theorist is here shown to have been swamped by his greater skill as a polemicist. The real question raised by this offering is this: has George F. Will made William F. Buckley, Jr., expendable?

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 1978
Publisher: Putnam