To remedy a glaring neglect in their American Heritage Series, general editors Leonard Levy and Alfred Young gave the inimitable Buckley a loose rein to gather together his version of the best of twentieth century American conservative thought. Buckley's introduction, sober, cogent, of a pungency well below the Vidal debate heights, centers around the experiences of National Review and "their bearing, by the processes of exclusion, on a workable definition of contemporary conservatism." (The featured excludees: Avn Rand, Dr. Murray Rothbard and "his merry anarchists," Robert Welch and fellow Birchers, and dedicated atheists.) With a deliberate bias for the most current thinkers and an eclectic sensibility for attitudes and tones which are quintessentially conservative, Buckley "corrals into a single volume" diverse contributions by conservatives arch and archetypal on the historical and intellectual bases of American conservative thought, the limitations of the state, contemporary challenges to the social order, social science and the nature of progress, and the spiritual crises of Western culture and of conservatives resisting the twentieth century. Pieces range from the broadly analytical (like Gary Wills' "The Convenient State") to the issue-oriented (e.g., Ernest van den Haag's "Race: Claims, Rights and Prospects") to the poetical-devotional (Frederick D. Wilhelmsen's "Christmas in Christendom"). Buckley's selections and section prefaces reflect his individual dream talking, an asset insofar as this frames the parts into a cohesive (though pluralistic) personal vision, but a liability in a collection for a series intended to be standard and authoritative.