tv Kevin Schultz on Buckley and Mailer CSPAN July 4, 2015 2:00pm-2:56pm EDT
i'm doing a graphic book with an artist about the history of my relationship to clothes, which is an interesting book because i'm kind of a clothes nut. so i want to do this graphic book. so i'm always working on four or five six things at the same time. >> host: are you writing any songs? >> guest: i am. i've recently written some gospel songs with a good pal of mine. i wrote a couple of r&b songs a couple of months ago, and i almost would rather write a song than anything else. i mean, i really kind of love it all. i love ghosting i like writing songs, i'm enjoying this graphic book that i'm doing i'm enjoying toying with this novel. ..
tv is on twitter. follow us to get twitter news, scheduling of these, author information and to talk directly with authors during a live program. twitter.com/booktv. next on booktv from our recent coverage of the chicago tribune printer's row bit fast kevin schultz they gay of the relationship between william f. buckley jr. and norman mailer.
>> welcome to the 31st annual joy doggo tribune printers are a bit fast. mining is tom paschalis and i will like to thank our sponsors and all of you for coming. today's program is being broadcast live on c-span2's booktv. we will leave time at the end for audience questions and you can come to the microphone to the side of the stage so the audience can hear the question. you can keep the spirit of lit fest going around with a subscription to the printers row journal the tribune premium book section fiction series and membership program. please download the book apps for more info on lit fest and access to the digital book store. we encourage everyone to post a messages and photos to facebook instagram and twitter using the hash tag plof15.
we ask you turn off your cellphone wringers and any flashes on your cameras. with that please welcome our interviewer for today's program, jane dailey. [applause] >> i am jane dailey from university of chicago. i teach american history and i am happy to welcome my colleague from the university of illinois at chicago, kevin schultz. kevin schultz is a historian of modern united states and american politics he wrote a fabulous book on religion in american politics in the mid 20th century al postwar catholics and jews held america to its protestant promise. this gives you a hint how exciting and interesting book is. that is a scholarly book. this book is equally a scholarly book. the difference between a scholarly book and a book that is not a scholarly book, the
modesty of the author of over making invisible all of the incredible archival work that he has done, all of the notetaking in the months and months of questioning and finding sources and thinking critically about things and kevin has written a wonderful book that is just now being published, the hard copies are out there which you should all by. this book is called "buckley and mailer: the difficult friendship that shaped the sixties". it deals with the friendship between william buckley and norman mailer, a french ship i did not know existed until i read your book. i will start by asking you how did you know this friendship exists in? how did you get started on this book? >> thank you for coming, generous introduction. this book was so much fun to write because i knew both of these larger-than-life figures, norman mailer, this novelist and one of the inventors of new
journalism and somebody who was a great first-person voice on the 1960s in the huge personality and william f. buckley who was an equally large personality but coming on the right, founder of "national review" and it never occurred to me they would be friends and after norman mailer died he sold his papers to the ransom center at the university of texas in austin. a couple of those letters that picked up in a magazine i was leafing through the magazine one night and i read some of the letters and stopped cold because i read one of the letters between norman mailer and buckley and there was cutting humor there was really deep insight into what was going on in the 1960s, they were obviously friends. i had been sitting around thinking about what to write on next as far as my next book but in the 1960s i wanted to tell story from the 1960s and it has become a time in our past that
is almost smith college eyes but not quite you see mad men, selma the movie, people are talking about it, trying to understand it and i was there too. by taking a figure on the left and a figure on the right, as are to joy but, smart, brilliant voices and investigating their friendship was a way to tell the great story about the 1960s and as i look at the archives and looked at the letters and looked at the debate and the television shows they were on together it there they are debating the cold war, debating the civil rights movement, debating the women's rights movement, debating vietnam, the whole french it takes you on a tour through the major events of the 1960s and these brilliant cut ticket anthony men who are trying to figure out in these gorgeous letters back and forth to we joy there but i thought that is it that is the book. i can tell the story of the 60s or a story from the 60s being attacked from the left, being attacked from the right through this really funny and fun
friendship. >> is surprising and kind of sadly indicative of where we are political event they could be absolute diehard political opponents, both ran for mayor of new york city which was another thing i had forgotten, if founded their own magazines within weeks of each other, "national review" on the side of buckley and the village voice which i didn't realize norman mailer had a big role in founding that so they were clearly political opponents in the sense of their stand on the major questions of the day but they were not enemies. they were friends. that is what i think makes this such a compelling story. why did they get along so well? they came from vastly different worlds as you point out. what was the bond that held their friendship together beside a love of arguing which i king was clearly something they both
enjoyed. >> guest: they both loved to argue. there were a couple things. you said they came from different backgrounds and that is true to a point. norman mailer was middle-class jewish boy from brooklyn after racial family, point stick ball in the streets, but 170 iq or something like that, really brilliant guy goes to harvard the buckley on the other hand is catholic, pretty staunch catholic but he lives more or less a quintessentially whaty like, raised in connecticut and a huge mansion, 114 rooms, the house has a name great calm and private tutors being flown into educator amend all sorts of different languages and classics and things like that, six pianos in this house so they bring in a piano teacher, ten children in the families of different backgrounds but he went to yale so they both are white men both
debt ivy league education, both end and serving in world war ii, an end of action on the periphery of action but they both have that as a common experience and both of them have a complaint dramatically different prescription for what america should be, but they have a similar complaint to one another about a common culture of postwar america the lead it to beaver society, post-world war ii culture that gets built so in that common complaint against 1950s cultures they realize they had something in common so you have these brilliant guys complaining about the same thing even though they want the country to go in completely different directions. add to the common background the common complaints and also their brilliance, their love of argument love of cracking jokes, making fun of each other and that is where their friendship came from. >> and love of making fun of
everybody else too. they are unsparing on privilege everybody as they are on themselves. tell us a little more about this thing they had in common this critique of america. what were they unhappy about? you can dislike leave it to beaver and ozzie and harriet but you don't have to start a magazine against it. what was wrong with america in the early 1960s for these world war ii veterans? >> one of the interesting parts for me to write about was to analyze this post world war ii culture, the richest society ever built income inequality was the lowest it had never been, and a lot of great things about this society, and those people coming from that generation pillaringing it. i wanted to analyze that.
what they complaining about? i set up this sort of tried heartache image of what the culture stood for what the beliefs were, central belief in the rational thought was going to carry the day we could trust the bureaucrats to cure us from the great depression or win the second world war or develop the interstate highway system to get us places so there was a belief in rational thought and progress. of fundamentally american belief and in the 1950s it was at its peak and another part of this triptych i developed in the book is this believe in a friendly corporate capitalism where the government is going to take care of the corporations and corporations are not necessarily going to push back too hard on paying high taxes, nobody likes to the too high taxes that this was a time the president and general motors gets cat to be the secretary of defense says i can't imagine a time when i would have to make a decision where something would be bad for general motors and also bad for
america and vice versa. what was good for corporate america was good for america as a whole. >> host: what anyone can guess what the top personal income tax was under eisenhower? think it was 78. close. hard to imagine today. >> guest: now we are half that or something like that. the third part of my painting here is what i call the rules of society which has to do with sort of the basic demeanor people would live with the rules about woman's hair and how high her skirt would be above her knee and a man at their cut above his ear and what kind of shoes he would wear. also how you would address some become your principal or your boss, mr. and mrs. very formal. there were these rules and embedded in these rules were the hierarchy of society, how you were supposed to live in order to get ahead. so both buckley and norman mailer looks at the society and even though it was the richest society in the history of man
with a greater share of the quality, higher taxes as you mentioned they felt limited like they couldn't be truly free, they couldn't push beyond in norman mailer's case the sexual limitations or the use of bad words. peabody is kinds of freedoms and buckley for his part wanted freedom from the bureaucratic state he wanted freedom from government, to get government off our backs. >> you talk about how freedom and how to get it and what it means and what to do with it is one of the blues that hold friendship together and pull them apart because their debates are quite divisive on this question. freedom has got to mean more to them than hair cuts, norman
mailer flunks the hair cut test but the civil rights movement, when you were saying we have these rules and a society in which everyone says mr. and mrs. except to black people in which white people in the south at least deliberately withheld those terms of respect because they did not want to recognize african-americans as people worth addressing with honorifics, doctor, mr. mrs. prof.. >> yes. the story of the book is this budding friendship in 1962 in chicago, these two guys are brought together, both in their late 30s and his equally young promoter who wanted to get the left and the right arguing, john golden who decided he was going to host the debate between
buckley and mailer and he was a brilliant promoter because he was going to visit the today is the fourth title fight and was going to promote this debate exactly the same way as the fight. outside the theater in downtown chicago he had a billboard out that said buckley mailer, posters everywhere, set up to be just like the title fight. >> intellectual fisticuffs. >> that is what it was set up to the and they were brought together and had this first entry for any debate. buckley's first line out of the gate is i don't think i can hold the attention of mr. mailer because he will never stop looking at the world's genital glands and they went back and forth like this and you read this and think what fun it would have been to have been there. a lot of the new left comes out of this, the new right is there and at the end of that debate the really realize they don't want to score simple points like the debate but it occurs to both of them they are both trying to shape the future, they're both
trying to push out of the bounds of the cold war assumptions, postwar liberalism as we have come to call it they want to push out, create what comes to the call as we all know what the 1960s, they want a radical movements on the right and left to push beyond. one of the first comes up as you speak of is the civil rights movement and this is of course a movement for freedom called the freedom movement, a march on washington for jobs and freedom, freedom is a key phrase there and buckley and mailer have complicated relations with the civil rights movement. neither one of them, looking back on it were sterling supporters of civil rights although to be fair and norman mailer did support the civil rights movement of the kind of honor to king rocking about remorse significant than just the name. it was respecting the person as a human being, as a fellow human being and for his part he didn't really have that many african-american friends, he had
all sorts of problematic understandings of what black people were. he thought of the mess sort of hypersexualize, living for the moment kind of people because they never know if they are going to be around tomorrow. he wrote the famous as a 1957 called the white negro and james baldwin hated that james walton and norman mailer were good friends, he hated that and wrote a long response call than love letter to my friend norman mailer a black boy looks and a white boy. and at least he supported civil rights and the movement. she understood that kind of freedom and honoring somebody as a human being who's capable of living up to their fulfillment. he understood that. buckley for his part is very problematic relationship with the civil rights movement and basically he helped articulate the conservative opposition to the civil rights movement. >> how would you characterize that? >> against everything. he could have taken a
conservative libertarian argument which would say something like this state has no business telling to can sit next to do, this is not the state's responsibility and instead he crafted two arguments we all recognize today for better or for worse really he first of all thought that most african-americans were not yet civilized have access to the vote. he felt the same about uneducated white people too but of course there were not a whole systematic movement trying to prevent white people from voting when there was this huge movement to prevent black people from having their vote. there was a not yet civilized, not yet ready sort of argument. the other argument buckley court and was the bootstraps arguments, where he would say the irish the jews came to america with nothing on a ship and they were able to raise themselves up by their bootstraps and they succeeded the town come african-americans haven't done it, what is wrong with your culture and your
people? he said this in a really celebrated debate in cambridge england against james baldwin. the cast of characters in my book was so much fun. i didn't have to look but there is james baldwin gore vidal, truman capote, they came to the story. in this debate with baldwin buckley spells out the bootstraps' argument, completely ignoring the fact that the g i bill have all sorts of components of segregation regarding local control, the new deal had all sorts of components of segregation regarding how it was going to be implemented. >> white americans benefited from those pieces of legislation. >> but we knew it and chose to ignore it. >> interesting. one of the things that is interesting is the way these doctors are going on tour around the world debating each other over and over again. i think people knew what they read getting if they had james baldwin and william buckley or
norman mailer so one question is why did anyone care what these authors thought? is hard to imagine asking any of our major novelists today, tell us your views on the social questions facing america today? >> great question. i think this was a moment in american history when the experts were so ruling, people were looking to the smartest people in the room to explain what was going on and at this moment there was this incredibly small group of mostly white men but not entirely but mostly to were brilliant in their way, who were articulate, who led the larger-than-life lives, who could appear on the page 6 tabloids as much as they could appear in the book section, as much as they could appear in an op-ed piece writing about the cold war, sort of talk on all sorts of subjects, they were fun to listen to people really just
enjoyed listening to them. i talked about this book, people the than a joy to me and say i disagree with everything bill buckley ever said and yet i loved to watch him. of tim herron and todd, rolled his eyes of, use extensive vocabulary is famous for and i love the way that he should respect to the opposition. he let some air their opinions and have a voice and then he would destroy them. >> he would destroy them with his intellect and his wit and not simply by yelling louder at them. >> exactly. the combination of these things really matters. i have been asked quite a bit recently, where are the public intellectuals of today, where are the people who are these larger-than-life people who can illuminate us on isis and kardashian at the same time because this is the kind of thing buckley and norman mailer and gore vidal and james baldwin were able to speak in all these
subjects and i think there has been a decline. i don't think we are less brilliant now and they were then, but i do think there has been a decline. part of the reason is we now have 114 channels to choose from so everybody can go to their own little corner and listen to the voices they want to hear and know what they're going to get and in the 1950s and 60s there are three networks, very few outlets for people so if you were on those networks you have a large platform. >> somebody must've thought the way to draw viewers was to have two people who disagreed debate each other as opposed to today having five people all of whom agree with each other have a joint conversation about the things they agree about so have we lost the capacity to tolerate opinions the don't conform precisely to our own? >> of course not. on tv we have but as human beings i don't think that at all. i think another thing that has
happened is to changes the especially norman mailer and the left in the 1960s were advocating have taken hold and that is to broaden the table, to invite more voices to sit at the table, african-americans, women all sorts of underrepresented voices to said the table, that is what the '60s were about and to extend they won. so now there was a time in a 60s when guys like buckley and mailer and the rest of the bunch felt like they could speak on behalf of the country, they felt they could speak to that nation, they could be the walt whitman who is eliminating the whole country to itself and with the rights revolutions and diversity movements of the 60s and 70s that became exposed as it was always a fiction against it became exposed as such and now it would take a lot of tenacity a lot of guts to say i can speak on behalf of the nation and i don't think anyone has done that successfully, at least not as
successfully as these people. >> wait a few weeks, i think there are a number of potential candidates out there who will speak for america. sounds of little bit like a invited so many people to this table that they lost their seat. >> in some ways that is exactly what happened this >> you talked about larger-than-life figures. norman mailer was married and divorced six times i believe. married six times only divorce five times. buckley was married once. when you talk about larger-than-life, the name truman capote springs immediately to mind. another one of our great novelists, interesting, brilliant character, he had a ball, the black and white ball. never understood how was he had a ball that there was a ball in joy was referred to as truman
capote's black-and-white ball which everybody who was anybody went to. can you tell us why is that important and not just something that makes us all along for gowns and elbow gloves? >> the story of the ball, as i wrote this book it was sort of by wanted to engage with the 60s and there they are, truman capote's ball, norman buckley and -- they're debating james baldwin, debating the rear and the story told itself it was so much fun to write and one of the great pleasures is i tell the story of his black-and-white ball, 1966, he had just finished in cold blood and it was this huge success and he didn't have a book to write truman capote and he had this money and time and no book to write so he always wanted to throw a black and white basketball so he did. and he rented out the big ballroom in the plaza hotel in
new york city and he invited all his friends. what is so interesting about the story and why the black and white ball is a fascinating moment in time is you look at who his friends were and here they are all these literary intellectuals, guys like norman mailer and william f. buckley, all these politicians were if there the editor of the washington post was the belle of the ball, and that insured a few joy number of politicians coming from washington d.c. defense secretaries, families of former presidents, there were kennedy's there, trumans, all sorts of families were there and new york socialites, the circles that truman capote moseley slam in. brought together all these new york will feel the, washington politicals, cultural literary intellectuals and they rather dancing with frank sinatra at and things like that. it was this moment where americans could sort of both buckley and mailer wrote about
it afterwards they looked at it as a time when americans contest themselves on the back and realize the whole of the nation was good. >> this was 1966. >> this is why they almost get in a fistfight, this moment it starts to break down, their relationship to extent but also the sense that america as a whole is conscientiously part of the common good that could speak to everybody. the elegant black and white ball looking into the plaza there are reporters taking pictures women wearing dailys, norman mailer the worst dressed at the entire ball but there were also people protesting saying there's a war going on, vietnam is happening how can you celebrate while this is happening and the fist fight between norman mailer and buckley, the despoil that but norman mailer has two or three or 12 drinks and sees
george bundy working in the defense department for lbj, architect of the vietnam war, holding forth on how the war is righteous and good and norman mailer goes up to him and challenges him and says how water can you possibly believe this and because this is a black and white ball, lillian hellman is there and turns around and knows the these men and starts dressing down norman how can you possibly say that, how are you picking a fight at this ball and he said he felt he was the under brother and his older sister was pressing him down in front of the football team so he went back to the bar and had two or three or 12 more drinks and look for somebody else he confided in the corner of his eye he saw his old friend william f. buckley and those of to him and says put up your dukes, let's fight about vietnam and buckley looks at him and sees his them possibly drunk and says you don't really mean that put his arm around him and walked off together so it was this amazing moment and not just a celebrity story that filled with the substance of the
breaking apart of american life as reflected through this friendship. >> puts you on the breaking apart of american life here because i think you admit this idea of the commonweal meaning this idea that there is what is good for america is good for general motors and vice versa that this is an idea both norman mailer and buckley subscribe to but certainly someone like james baldwin knew all along that there was not one vision of this commonweal, there were at least we do, probably three, many more, imagine tom hayden crashing the black-and-white ball, so glee carmichael even better crashing the black-and-white ball. are they oblivious to the generational divide? are they unwilling in 1966 to even factor in the civil rights
movement as an important component part of the commonwealth or as of final critique of the commonwealth? did they just turn their backs on these things and argue with each other? >> yes no. 1966, black power is coming but hasn't triumph yet, the sort of more non-violent movement of martin luther king is carrying on the voting rights act, starting to break apart in 656667 absolutely but there is still this hope that we can reform this idea of the commonweal and adapt it to vote way buckley and/or made their really want to see fit. they don't -- i don't want to say they don't see it breaking apart but they sense there's a break that is coming. there is too much built up in the early part of the 1916s, their challenge is from the left and right as represented by the civil rights movement and a growing women's rights movement or on the right as represented by barry goldwater 1964 as
represented by all these conservative parties that are really starting to get votes for what the country. the right and left are attacking the common middle and they think their vision has the chance to carry the day and so they are fighting for this vision. what they don't see is the destruction of the common weal. they don't see the sort of possibility that americans will give up on the good of the nation in favor of the good of themselves. >> when you say the destruction of the commonweal and both of them see this happening at an alarms' both of them and it is important that there the world war ii generation, both veterans, they may not have been fighting for the same thing at least at home, what are the signs to them that commonweal is breaking apart, things like barry goldwater's candidacy? is exclusively related to the
political parties or is there something broader that suggests to them that the whole thing is going to topple? >> good question. there's a great moment i was delighted to discover where in 1968 but we invite as norman mailer to the firing line, this television show 0 he had that was really well you'd and sort of problem up and elevated him to another status higher up on the celebrity status and he has norman mailer on right after he writes this incredible book called army of the night which tells the firsthand account norman mailer is the star of the book, as you was for net most of the book the story of a march from the lincoln memorial to the pentagon, sort of this anti-war march and when they get to the pentagon, they save the corridors of the pentagon and destroy america's war machine. they all know they are not going to do this but this is the
stated goal and when the protesters got there they read going to levitate the pentagon and get rid of the evil spirits and things like that. also norman mailer writes this remarkable book and buckley has mailer on the television show on firing line and it is a great interview you than youtube it now ended is a delight to watch. one question buckley asks is the one conservative and most middle americans wanted to know of the left at the time who were protesting against the war. are you now and enemy of the country? are you an enemy of america? are protesting the government, protesting the war that you are supposed to support, does this make you as a representative of the left and any? and mail there is flabbergasted. the language he used, he says he has a searing love of country, he loves this country and what it can be and his mission was to make it the best it possibly could be. he failed in that in many ways
for his own personal failings. his vision wasn't exactly as inclusive as it might have been or is it brilliant as it might have been but he and buckley both shared a searing love of country. i love that phrase. when you get to the later 1960s and people protesting against commonweal and america and the war machine and seeing the country in a limited way, that is where buckley and norman mailer pullback from the new left and the new right and in doing so they lose a little bit of their relevance. >> you said something that sparked an idea and now as gone away. what was it? talk of little bit about their humor. you said it was fun to write this book and one reason was fun is because they are really funny.
especially norman mailer who writes his own obituary as if it were a win by buckley. it is the parody of buckley's style talking about norman mailer's death which is one of the things they liked to do for each other. >> there were all these tools in the archives. would never know unless you looked. it was 1979 boston magazine asks norman mailer to write his obituary and it is very very funny and it start off talking about how his old friend bill buckley called him, can't remember exactly what the words were because there were buckley words about 12 syllables long and the acronym was cracked. the the piece you are referring to in 1975 charitable organization was auctioning off a night with bill buckley and they've looking around saying to the auction of bill buckley? norman mailer. in the archives i found this two page typewritten here to auction
off a night with bill buckley and joy norman mailer writes this two page description of what bill buckley is like and i couldn't repeat it because the vocabulary words i future and it is really really funny. i got a lot thesaurus out to figure out what all the words were and i was laughing and tried to explain it to somebody and they said those words don't make any sense. e-mail offer clean copy to buckley right after the auction and he said for you to frame or 2 flipped away and buckley writes back and says thanks. i haven't had of the source around long enough to understand what you just auctioned off but i will try to sound as smart as you make me sound. let's get together for a drink some time. just a great archival finds. that was one of the things. every single letter, every day they were in they had so much fun making fun of the other one for their vices but it was a friendly kind of making fun.
they weren't attacking too deeply. they knew when they were making these personal cuts they still were going to debate the deeper subject so they didn't let the personal get in the way of the deep philosophical arguments they really wanted to have. >> that is one of the biggest changes from today, it does seem to be very at hominem. people do attack each other rather is an contesting the ideas they are putting out. anything norman mailer and buckley, they didn't pull their punches and both of them punched card, but they didn't call each other names this >> they called each other names. they definitely did this >> not ones that could be on television. >> what they did is defended the other person to their own parties. so in 1963 in north carolina of all places buckley was talking about -- king is giving a speech
and talking about norman mailer and engaging with radicals on the left say what is wrong with the left is what is wrong with rob norman mailer and it is not his wives or his girlfriend or anything like that but what happens when you try to live life free of foundations when you give a christian ethics, given these kinds of things then look at how radical you are and there's nothing to ground you. he talked all about norman mailer's sort of bad words and prescriptions, vivid descriptions of sex acts and things like that and north carolina students at the university respecting, attacked him for using such foul language and he said how can you be the dish how can you engage with the ideas and norman mailer's you won't engage with the ideas of norman mailer, you need to understand what the left is all about if you want to argue with them. >> we have people here who are anxious to ask you questions so we will take some questions from the audience.
yes, ma'am? >> what about -- >> it would help if you could go to the microphone. sorry about that. >> you haven't talked about their relationships to the women's movement which were very powerful, both of them were antagonistic, and norman mailer loved the idea of women being independent enough to sleep with him but not big enough to be political in the world. i would like you to talk about that. >> there's a whole chapter in the book on this exact question and i am grateful, first-time i ever presented on this friendship i had no business doing it. i was just thinking of this book and presenting and the first question someone as was that one. how the right about the 60s a son to old white guys? where are the women in the story?
where is the women's movement. both of them were so wrong when it came to the women's movement in a lot of waste. in the section where i talk about this is the last section of the book where both buckley and mail there are really starting to watch the 1960s and 70s watch american life move on without them being quite as central as they were in the middle 1916s. it is this moment where they have to reach calibrate before they can get involved again in the public life, and it is the rise of women. the story of mailers at perfect encapsulation of this machine as did himself as the leader of the sexual revolution of the 1960s but what he meant was inequality for women, it meant to have as many lovers as he could possibly have and not be punished by the constraints of society. hugh hefner was one of the people that appears in the book as this sort of paragon of the
sexual revolution. so in 1969 time magazine calls of norman mailer and wants to interview him about the sexual revolution and women's liberation movement that he thinks he is going to be the star because he has been promoting this vision of sexual relations in american life and when it comes out, time magazine, he's more wretch is on the cover of time magazine and she said in her book central politics 30 pages destroying norman mailer's at least fictional understandings of women and based on power and conflicts and wasn't based on equality of all and norman mailer realized the movement for freedom were pushing in directions he was not prepared for and he was unwilling to acquiesce. he is norman mailer and to promote it and sell books because the paramount promoter above all else. marvelous debate with four
feminists, jill johnston, and two other women and the debate demand comes in a three piece suit and walking around, he is in on the joke. he knows he is being made buffoon of but rather than take their side he plays the on man out trying to sell books in some ways and after is that he takes a step back from public life and starts writing about celebrities. he is no longer the walt whitman to america and it takes him a full decade to reach calibrate and when he does treat calibrate he is writing about you saw and a murder takes place there as opposed to writing about what life in america is like today. a great question. >> thanks. i was fortunate enough to read richard hofstadter's paranoid style of american politics
justin few weeks ago and is great hearing you talk about this so then i was thinking these two men are so brilliant that they couldn't make themselves demonize what the other person was saying, and that they have to really think about where the other person was coming from, where the other side was coming from so they couldn't go to that level that we do now with sean hannity. >> exactly right. every single one of their letters, every time they have fought long letter it said let's get together some time and after dinner we can retire to some quiet room justin two of a standby can cure you of all the problems in your thoughts and i king 3 of all problems in my thoughts. they had a respect for each other's intellect, they had a respect for each other as people so they really did think the other person might be able to teach them something and that was the spirit of engage in they had. as i said at the beginning of wasn't about scoring points but
figuring out the best way to live a fulfilling life in the united states. they have all sorts of flaws as we just talked about, but that respect was what grounded their friendship. >> part of the problem, people on television today are not as smart as buckley and norman mailer and sweet might do better is to favor smart enough to figure out the rebuttals to their own arguments might be. >> they are not rewarded for being as engage with the other side. we think about who crossed lines, maybe you get jon stewart debating bill o'reilly, that is seen as a sideshow and that is not a bad parallel, and bill o'reilly is successful as what he does but that he rises to the level of intellect bill buckley
pushing it, john stuart is a comedian and very effective than the one. don't mean to criticize these people but they are rewarded in different ways than our mailer and buckley were rewarded. >> speaking of crossing lines mr. buckley played a key role in the stifling of the john birch movement and the republican party would perhaps be better off if there was somebody to speak and fill that vacuum. can you speak to that? >> one of the things buckley was central in doing, why he is such an important figure in american history is he in the 1915s not singlehandedly but the key player who took sort of various strands of conservative thought sort of traditionalist idea that we need to follow the rules scrupulously libertarian ideas, harsh cold warriors and braided them together into a winnow know of as the republican party in some ways and part of the reason he was so successful at doing that was because he did
excommunicate the most ideological pure voices got rid of ayn rand, didn't get rid of her but excised her from the movement, got rid of the john birch society for seeing conspiracy theories everywhere even chastise the pope for not living up to the traditional living, he wanted to curtail the uglier parts of what had been american conservatism and that extends even to getting rid of traditional anti-semitism. he was very active in getting rid of the anti-semitic thread in conservative side in 1950s. that was the conservative party that he built. i think if he looked at the republican party today he might say something along those lines would be needed, the ideological front needs to be excised or curtailed or be given the smaller voice in the conservative party but i also think he would be very instrumental about it and want
the republicans to win. >> let us suppose that the publisher, w. w. martin was developing a new text called the norton anthology to modern political literature, which letter of buckley and mail there would you submit as an excerpt of which transcript of some debate when you submit as being most representative of the conflict between liberalism and conservatism in the 1960s? >> funny you use the word between liberalism and conservatism because one of the things that united them was they saw america as having a liberal center. we appropriated that word to think of as the left wing. playboy magazine when we end the debate, what a great intellectual life when you had the intellectual heavyweights battling it out in chicago two days before a prize fight and the transcripts go into playboy
magazine over two issues with the bunny drinking a martini and buckley and mailer's name next to it. it was fantastic nbc fodder for the editor to say conservative versus liberal and a month later there's a letter to the editor from norman mailer saying i don't care what you call me communist, socialist, radical, rebel, left, conservative, whatever you do don't call me a liberal. the liberal is the center that the left and right were attacking. one of my favorite letters than i found between the two of them happened after selma. bill buckley was invited to prop up the new york city cops at the holding names society, the catholic society of new york city cops and was trying to defend the police action at selma. it didn't go over well. let's just say that. there was the refuge you're going on in the press, the new york times, new york post, they
were attacking buckley for defending the plan and the police at selma and buckley discoveries the fathers of the holy name society had tape-recorded this letter, lecture so he called a press conference immediately, the press conference is full, they played a tape and right when he starts to talk about some of the tape breaks, like watergate all over again, the tape breaks there is a technician, everyone is leaning in and when they fixed the state there are 30 seconds this thing and it was the moment he was talking about selma. he has not recuperated at all in the press and then there was this beautiful land funny back and forth, this letter comes in a month later from norman mailer is it says i suppose you just replaced the as the most hated man in american life. and he talks about how the left should view the cops versus how conservatives should view the cops, how the left should be the civil rights movement versus the right's view of the civil rights movement and buckley in cages
with some of those ideas and a series of letters, dynamic interplay that times are changing, how should we view them? house and we understand the without becoming the most hated man in american life? that was one of my favorite finds. >> that is illustrative of something you said in a book which is each of them is fearless and they are vilified. each one is the 5 many many times but they are not afraid to say what they think and to tell people things nobody wants to hear and that is another of their hallmarks', you have to have a very strong ego, you have to have a fix skin but when they talk of themselves this is intellectuals they see that as their duty as citizens into the tools, to say things people may not want to hear and it may come back at them for. >> they both had tremendous egos without a doubt, there were told from a very young age that they were the smartest person in the
remand people need to listen and respect them. one time when they were on fire in line buckley says suppose you were in the soviet union would you be more afraid of but norman mailer administration or buckley administration and norman mailer laughed and said i'm glad i'm not the only egotist in the room. but yes, they were fearless because they were confident that they were also not afraid to pick fights and as we talk about with the women's movement even lose fights or risk losing fights and looking like a buffoon. yes, to their credit but it also came with baggage too. >> as a person who lives in an era as the baby boomer and a person who would be considered conservative because i voted for richard nixon but i like what you say what i always said about the appropriation or perversion of the word liberal because yes jefferson and adams all disagreed, those were trying
times of intellectual people can disagree and this is what america is about liberty of expression and first amendment but i want to mention one little finger leon, you said buckley, i remember buckley, and miring him. i have remaining i don't like the language and stuff like that very intellectual person very intelligent, you didn't touch on the fact that he shot his wife or belly of the beast that we will leave that alone. >> he didn't shoot her he stabbed her. >> okay. >> at a party. and she still didn't the for some. it took a little while. >> to press charges. anyway you mentioned earlier when you were describing in your introduction you mentioned a little thing that irks me on this thing when you said buckley grew up what what white anglo-saxon protestant. there's one other group that is protestant, that is another core group, that would include j. edgar hoover richard nixon a quaker who grew up in poverty. not poverty but you know.
i am saying that is another area as that young catholics were rebelling against their church and now were a lot of the marching on the left so that was sort of leaving out another group of americans. that is all i am saying the very wealthy buckley the very wealthy kennedy family, the catholic frustration also wanted somebody to look at as well as those who became kind of a punching bag is j. edgar hoover, the sort of protestant people that came from poverty. >> i use the phrase wasy i mention he was catholic but this is a cultural marker of the kind of refined life he lived but you are exactly right, he was catholic and i have a part in the book where i talk about what it meant to him to be catholic and he was no fan of vatican ii and the changes. he didn't hate all of them but he was not a fan of them but he was a devout catholic claim to have never wavered in his belief is whole life and i like
suggesting seem to think that that made him, we talk about confidence in the go i think that helped make him more confident because he was absolutely sure that he was in possession of the truth he knew right from wrong and it was clear because this was something he had been taught through his faith. and when you have possession of the truth as yorkers do catholics were vilified and sometimes discriminated against in you see this it helps him develop the spirit of the one who is rebelling against the sort of lost a beat in a way so absolutely right, his catholic faith was import demand foundational. >> also turned around and killed the father, killed his alma mater by writing a them and at yale is in is graduated rich you can see in part as the product of a catholic at yale facing a roomful of protestants don't
remember his graduating class that that would have been a good group. >> exactly right although he did get his papers back to yale so if you want to study buckley you have to go there. he end ed up recuperating. >> he loved his alma mater in the end. that is is the an end as any to end so that the program can continue but thank you for coming and especially for supporting book fast. we have time for one more question? i am sorry. our author will be here to sign all the books you are going to buy right outside the door. thank you so much, kevin shields. [applause]. >> on behalf of the lit fest thank you to kevin shields and jane daily, most of all things to all of you for attending, mr. shultz will be signing books and taking more questions in the law the right outside. >> is there a nonfiction author of books you would lik