Living on Fire - Intercollegiate Studies Institute

Living on Fire

The Life of L. Brent Bozell Jr.

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“A triumph . . . A moving, beautifully written biography.”
National Review

Living on Fire tells the remarkable story of L. Brent Bozell Jr., the brilliant, tormented pioneer of the conservative movement and the Christian Right.

“A beautifully written account of one of the conservative movement’s most brilliant and troubled, and sadly neglected, founders.” —The American Conservative

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“A triumph . . . A moving, beautifully written biography”
National Review
From the beginning, L. Brent Bozell Jr. seemed destined for great things.
An extraordinary orator, the young man with fiery red hair won a national debate competition in high school and later was elected president of Yale’s storied Political Union, where his debating partner was his close friend William F. Buckley Jr. In less than a decade after graduating from Yale, Bozell helped Buckley launch National Review, became a popular columnist and speaker, and, most famously, wrote Barry Goldwater’s landmark book The Conscience of a Conservative.
But after setting his sights on high political office, Bozell took a different route in the 1960s. He abruptly moved his family to Spain; he founded a traditional Catholic magazine, Triumph, that quickly turned radical; he repudiated on religious grounds the U.S. Constitution; he made it his mission to transform America into a Catholic nation; he led the nation’s first major antiabortion protest (featuring a militant group known as the Sons of Thunder); he severed ties with his erstwhile friends from the conservative movement, including Buckley (who was also his brother-in-law). By the mid-1970s, Bozell had fallen prey to bipolar disorder and alcoholism, leading life as if “manacled to a roller coaster,” as a friend put it.
Biographer Daniel Kelly tells Bozell’s remarkable story vividly and with sensitivity in Living on Fire. To write this book, Kelly interviewed dozens of friends and family members and gained unprecedented access to Bozell’s private correspondence. The result is a richly textured portrait of a gifted, complex man—his triumphs as well as his struggles.
Once destined for Capitol Hill, L. Brent Bozell wound up working in Washington soup kitchens just blocks away. Bringing mercy to the poor became his vocation—and, as Living on Fire shows, he succeeded admirably by the standards he came to embrace.

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“[A] lucid and compassionate biography . . . Kelly [is] a well-credentialed historian and biographer.”
Washington Times

“Beautifully moving . . . nearly brought me to tears. . . . Kelly’s writing is clear and wonderfully fluid, and the book moves briskly. . . . We are grateful that Kelly has written this outstand­ing biography. Bozell is one of the great, unsung figures of 20th-century American history, and his passionate, merciful life is one worth knowing.”
The American Conservative

“A sympathetic and briskly readable account that is candid about its subject’s personal torments and failure of promise.”
National Interest

Living on Fire would make an incredible movie.”
The American Spectator

“A delightfully readable and analytically acute biography of a figure central to the founding of the conservative movement.”
Rich Lowry, editor of National Review

“Poignant . . . We had to wait a long time for a biography of Brent Bozell, but Living on Fire has, beautifully and insightfully, made the wait worthwhile.”

“The story of L. Brent Bozell Jr. is an American story, a big American story, and one that should be more widely known. Thanks to Dan Kelly, it will be. . . . In this absorbing and moving account, Kelly tells the full story of Brent Bozell, both the early triumphs and the heartbreaking stumbles.”
Neal B. Freeman, from the foreword to Living on Fire

“In the latest of ISI’s rightly praised series of conservative biographies, Daniel Kelly offers a beautifully written and moving portrait of L. Brent Bozell Jr. The story of Bozell’s rise, fall, and final triumph as a ‘holy fool’ among the poor is compellingly told. Living on Fire is a must and inspiring read.”
Lee Edwards, author of Goldwater: The Man Who Made a Revolution

“Kelly tells the remarkable story of L. Brent Bozell’s turbulent, crusading career inside and outside the American conservative movement, of the private demons that nearly destroyed him, and of the spiritual tranquility he achieved in the end. Written with discernment and empathy, this is an illuminating and deeply moving book.”
George H. Nash, author of The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America since 1945

“A wonderful book about an extraordinary person who was essential to the founding of the modern conservative movement. Readers will find it impossible to put down.”
Donald J. Devine, senior scholar at the Fund for American Studies, author of America’s Way Back

Living on Fire presents L. Brent Bozell, warts and all, as a fascinating and complex personality. Kelly blends sympathy with cool judgment in describing Bozell’s impact on the lives of those he touched, and the painful ordeal of those who loved him most.”
Patrick Allitt, professor of American history at Emory University and author of Catholic Intellectuals and Conservative Politics in America, 1950-1985

“This book should be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the place of traditionalist thought in late-twentieth-century America.”
Christopher Shannon, assistant professor of history at Christendom College

“A good biography of L. Brent Bozell Jr. has been long needed, and our patience has been rewarded with Kelly’s heart-wrenching and inspiring book.”
Donald T. Critchlow, Barry Goldwater Chair of American Institutions at Arizona State University and author of The Conservative Ascendancy

“Kelly recounts L. Brent Bozell Jr.’s remarkable story in clear and vivid prose. Kelly writes with great sensitivity about Bozell’s long and agonizing battle against bipolar disorder as well as his last, unexpected turn into true holiness.”
Linda Bridges, coauthor of Strictly Right: William F. Buckley Jr.

“Kelly’s detailed, well-researched, and well-written biography smartly examines how Bozell contributed to some of conservatism’s principal strains of thought, placing him as a founding father of the movement.”
Mark D. Popowski, author of The Rise and Fall of “Triumph”

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