"Peter Collier set a standard that cannot be equaled, only imperfectly emulated," Roger Kimball said as he accepted his role as the new publisher of Encounter Books and praised his predecessor at a reception Wednesday to celebrate Encounter's move to New York City.
Adding his thanks was Michael Grebe, the president of the Wisconsin based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which founded Encounter Books with a grant in 1997."Encounter is a success because you made it a success," he said of Mr. Collier. In its first five years, Encounter has published influential books byVictor Davis Hanson, Thomas Sowell, Leon Kass, and others.
Stepping to the podium, Mr. Collier said the Bradley Foundation had originally asked him to start Encounter Books because it felt there was a kind of disdain for conservative books and authors in mainstream publishing culture. He said the foundation felt it was time to have a conservative book company that would sell these books not as widgets and units but as ideas.
Mr. Collier praised Mr. Kimball as one of the last of a vanishing breed: an editor, writer, man of letters, and controversialist. About the company's move to New York, Mr. Collier observed wryly that San Francisco had treated Encounter Books like the "avian flu."
Mr. Kimball, who is co-editor and co publisher of the New Criterion, said, "Like the Bradley Foundation, Encounter Books is dedicated to the proposition that ideas matter." Then, quoting an observation Irving Kristol made in the 1970s, Mr. Kimball said:
For two centuries the very important people who managed the affairs of this society could not believe in the importance of ideas - until one day they were shocked to discover that their children, having been captured and shaped by certain ideas, were either rebelling against their authority or seceding from their society. The truth is that ideas are all-important. The massive and seemingly solid institutions of any society - the economic institutions, the political institutions, the religious institutions - are always at the mercy of the ideas in the heads of the people who populate these institutions.
"Irving Kristol was right," Mr. Kimball said. "The battle to determine the shape of our civilizations - to determine the way in which we live our lives - is a battle of ideas. This is a conflict in which the Bradley Foundation has often intervened decisively. Encounter Books is part of that effort."
Finally, William F. Buckley rose to offer remarks. He told an anecdote that illustrated the teamwork involved between author and publisher in getting ideas out to the public. "I'm amused that almost any narrative about rightwing publishing," Mr. Buckley said, "invokes my name and Russell Kirk's name as two people who wrote books that were successfully circulated a hundred years ago. It reminded me of one of the forays that I had with my publisher, Henry Regnery. It went as follows:
Henry, I've got to give a speech in Milwaukee. Have you any interest in it?' The publisher said, 'Of course I have an interest in it.' It ended up that I met him in Chicago with his promotion manager in his car and a hundred copies of my most recent book in the trunk. So, we drove to Milwaukee, and after my talk he started selling the books, which I happily autographed, and that was a day in the life of Henry Regnery Inc.
Speaking about support, Mr. Buckley recalled that about a week ago, at an affair celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National Review, he had divulged that the National Review had lost about $25 million over 50 years, or about $500,000 a year - "about the cost of one third of one torpedo." He said people who backed the enterprise volunteered money over the years: "Our dear donors and friends had a sort of genius for exactly estimating how much money we needed to survive," because, Mr. Buckley said, they never gave one dollar more than was necessary. The National Review founder said it was correct to say the existence of that journal had affected the destiny of this country and would not have been possible without the help of Americans who understood that ideas have consequences.
He further recalled that when "God and Man at Yale" was published by Regnery, a foundation donated $1,000 to help promote the book. There followed an essay on the subject in the New Leader asking why the free enterprise entity of Henry Regnery required subsidies. Mr. Buckley said, "This is of course a reductionist interpretation of the marketplace, which wouldn't have immediate answers for why Bach required subsidies - which he did."