National Review at 60

National Review celebrated its 60th anniversary last November.  Its founder, William F. Buckley, Jr., would have been days away from turning 90.  He is all over the anniversary issue, in a somewhat exploitive way—many photographs and reminders of his celebrity status, including an image of the brand of peanut butter he endorsed.  Indeed, just as Buckley acted practically as Red Wing’s mascot, so he is serving posthumously as NR’s.  This is understandable, since the magazine has never come close in the quarter-century since his retirement as editor in 1990 to finding a replacement to fill either his workaday cordovan shoes or his patent-leather opera pumps.

It is Bill Buckley the celebrity whom the present editorial board wishes you to associate with the magazine, not the Buckley (let us say) pre-1968.  Anniversary issues typically attempt to recall and commemorate a magazine’s institutional and literary history.  Not this one.  The founding editors are mentioned, but samples of their work are nowhere reprinted, while the editors and contributors from 1955 to 1989 are ignored completely, save for the few—for example, Richard Brookhiser—who remain on staff.  The general impression the issue leaves is that the magazine really began when John O’Sullivan effectively took control in 1989.  There is a reason for this—a disingenuous, not...

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