Sunday, November 24, 2019

Nicholas Buccola

Nicholas Buccola's latest book is The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America. He is the Elizabeth and Morris Glicksman Chair in Political Science at Linfield College, and he lives in Portland, Oregon.

From Buccola's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write of the 1965 debate between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley, "At Cambridge [University], the powder keg of their intellectual struggle blows up, for all the world to see." What were some of the reasons you focused on these two figures?

A: My way into the book was through Baldwin. I was invited to write an essay about Baldwin for a book, and I came across the debate with Buckley. I became mesmerized by the debate—here were two individuals with radically different backgrounds and views on stage. I began to think about a smaller book, and then it grew into a larger book.

The idea was to treat the debate as a way in, but the longer story would tell about Baldwin and Buckley, weaving intellectual history, political history, and a little personal biography into the story of the civil rights and conservative movements.

I’ve gotten questions about the pairing—it’s an odd couple to be sure, how they conceived of their roles, and the kind of thinkers they were. But there’s a way in which putting them together makes sense. Baldwin provides a lens to understand someone like Buckley. Buckley was a very important popularizer of the conservative movement, the kind of person we need to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue