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Losing Mum and Pup
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Losing Mum and Pup

4.1 58
by Christopher Buckley

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"I had more or less resolved not to write a book about my parents. But I'm a writer, and when the universe hands you material like this, not writing about it amounts either to waste or a conscious act of evasion."

So begins award-winning author Christopher Buckley in the most personal and transcendent work of his life, the tragicomic true story of


"I had more or less resolved not to write a book about my parents. But I'm a writer, and when the universe hands you material like this, not writing about it amounts either to waste or a conscious act of evasion."

So begins award-winning author Christopher Buckley in the most personal and transcendent work of his life, the tragicomic true story of the year in which both of his parents died.

In twelve months between 2007 and 2008, Buckley coped with the passing of his dad, William F. Buckley, the father of the modern conservative movement, and his mother, Patricia Taylor Buckley, one of New York's most glamorous and colorful socialities. He was their only child and their relationship was close and complicated. Writes Buckley: "They were not—with respect to every other set of loving, wonderful parents in the world—your typical mom and dad."

As Buckley tells the story of their final year together, he takes readers on a surprisingly entertaining tour, capturing the heartbreaking and disorienting feeling of becoming a fifty-five-year-old orphan. Through it all, Buckley maintains his sense of humor by recalling the words of Oscar Wilde: "To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness."

Just as Calvin Trillin and Joan Didion gave readers solace and insight into the experience of losing a spouse, Christopher Buckley offers consolation, wit, and warmth to those dealing with the death of a parent—all while telling his unique, personal story of living with legends.

Editorial Reviews

Chris Matthews
"Read LOSING MUM AND PUP and you'll realize it would have been a mortal sin to have not written this book . . . Because he can write, because he cared and was perhaps driven to it, Christopher Buckley has given us-- and the ages-- something of his parents. Read his book and you sense truly that you know them."
Janet Maslin - New York Times
"Smartly written... an improbably funny book that will hit home hard... Read it and chortle. Read it and weep."
USA Today
"Christopher Buckley's Losing Mum and Pup appears like a cheerful beacon . . . Buckley's remembrance of his famous folks is refreshingly different . . . What you remember from Losing Mum and Pup aren't the sad endings; you end Losing Mum and Pup dazzled by the Buckleys as people."
"LOSING MUM AND PUP is a subtle, fond, and, above all, honest chronicle of his celebrated parents. This is an important work, at once unsparing and gracious-and that is no small achievement . . . The anecdotes are rich and numerous . . . Buckley has pulled off what eludes many writers: he has written candidly but not unkindly about people whose vices and virtues he sees clearly."
Janet Maslin
Smartly written... an improbably funny book that will hit home hard... Read it and chortle. Read it and weep.
New York Times
National Review
"Dazzlingly written."
Washington Times
"Intense, beautifully written and often achingly personal . . . One suspects that somewhere, beyond all this, Bill and Pat Buckley are very proud of their son."
New York Times Review of Books
"The memoir is loving, exasperated and very funny. In its moments of real ambivalence, LOSING MUM AND PUP is surprisingly strong drink... [Pat Buckley] remains glamorous even when she's impossible... The writing, like the book's subjects, is generally top-drawer. To take but one example: "the elder George Bush "may be New England Yankee blue blood, but he has the tear ducts of a Sicilian grandmother." The yield of such lines is exceptionally high, and it's fair to say that the particular talent required to produce them is one of the few that William F. Buckley lacked. [Christopher Buckley's] own considerable accomplishment is to have emerged from two large colorful shadows as very much his own writer and very much his own man."
New York Magazine
"There are also many touching moments . . . what's become clear is that the book, for all its hype-oriented excerpts, is really much more akin to Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking than to any of Chris Buckley's own biting and wry prose. And the best evidence that it will do well is that each time one of these damn segments comes out, even if they're all a repeat, we just keep reading them."
"Satirist Christopher Buckley writes honestly and with touching humor about the recent passing of his legendary parents."
"With characteristic asperity and immeasurable tenderness, Christopher Buckley mourns his legendary parents."
Town and Country
"Whether or not your parents are Pat and William F. Buckley, it's wrenching to say goodbye . . . LOSING MUM AND PUP is emphatically as billed: occasionally about family life but mostly a sad, intermittently angry and ambivalent chronicle of illness, decline and bereavement . . . wonderful detail . . . This was not the book Christopher Buckley was meant to write. But it's the one he had to, and that gives it great punch."

National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. died in February 2008, less than a year after his beloved wife and life companion, Patricia. By several accounts, Patricia's demise left WFB in deep despair and essentially rudderless. Their 57-year partnership produced one child, the talented novelist and political satirist Christopher Buckley. Losing Mum and Pup is his deeply affectionate, astutely observant tribute to an inseparable pair of extraordinary parents. Fine, heartfelt prose. A Barnes & Noble bestseller now in paperback.

Thomas Mallon
The memoir…is loving, exasperated and very funny. In its moments of real ambivalence, Losing Mum and Pup is surprisingly strong drink…the writing, like the book's subjects, is generally top-drawer.
—The New York Times
James Rosen
Breezy, witty, savvy and perceptive—and occasionally bitchy and biting—Losing Mum and Pup displays all the hallmarks of the younger Buckley's acclaimed fiction. As testimony to what Pat and Bill Buckley were really like, the book bears supreme witness and delivers many laughs; as an account of what it's like to watch one's parents suffer and die, it is moving to the point of tears.
—The Washington Post
Boston Globe
"One of the rarest political specimens-- the authentically comic writer."
Sunday Times of London
"An accomplished comic novelist and raucously funny political satirist."
"The quinessential political novelist of our time."
From the Publisher
"One of the funniest writers in the English language."—Tom Wolfe

"One of the rarest political specimens-- the authentically comic writer."—Boston Globe

"An accomplished comic novelist and raucously funny political satirist."—Sunday Times of London

"The quinessential political novelist of our time."—Fortune

Tom Wolfe
"One of the funniest writers in the English language."

Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
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Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt


I’m not sure how this book will turn out. I mostly write novels, and I’ve found, having written half a dozen, that if you’re lucky, the ending turns out a surprise and you wind up with something you hadn’t anticipated in the outline. I suppose it’s a process of outsmarting yourself (not especially hard in my case). Perhaps I’m outsmarting myself by writing this book at all. I’d pretty much resolved not to write a book about my famous parents. But I’m a writer, for better or worse, and when the universe hands you material like this, not writing about it seems either a waste or a conscious act of evasion.

By “material like this,” I mean losing both your parents within a year. If that sounds callous or cavalier, it’s not meant to be. My sins are manifold and blushful, but callousness and arrogance are not among them (at least, I hope not). The cliché is that a writer’s life is his capital, and I find myself, as the funereal dust settles and the flowers dry, wanting – needing, perhaps more accurately – to try to make sense of it and put the year to rest, as I did my parents. Invariably, one seeks to move on. A book is labor, and as Pup taught me from a very early age – so early, indeed, that I didn’t have the foggiest idea what he was talking about – “Industry is the enemy of melancholy.” Now I get it.

There’s this, too: My parents were not – with all respect to every other set of son-and-daughter-loving, wonderful parents in the wide, wide world – your average mom and dad. They were William F. Buckley Jr. and Patricia Taylor Buckley, both of them – and I hereby promise that this will be the only time I deploy this particular cliché – larger-than-life people. A gross understatement in their case. I wonder, having typed that: Is it name-dropping when they’re your own parents?

But larger than life they both were, and then some. Larger than death, too, to judge from the public outpouring and from the tears of the people who loved them and mourn them and miss them, none more than their son, even if at times I was tempted to pack them off to earlier graves. Larger-than-life people create larger-than-life dramas.

To the extent this story has a larger-than-personal dimension, it is an account of becoming an orphan. I realize that “orphan” sounds like an overdramatic term for becoming parentless at age fifty-five; but I was struck by the number of times the word occurred in the eight hundred condolence letters I received after my father died. I hadn’t thought of myself as an “orphan” until about the sixth or seventh letter: Now you’re an orphan. . . . I know the pain myself of being an orphan. . . . You must feel so lonely, being an orphan. . . . When I became an orphan it felt like the earth dropping out from under me. At length a certain froideur encroached as the thought formed, So, you’re an orphan now. I was jolted happily out of my thousand-yard stare a month later by an e-mail from my old pal Leon Wieseltier, to whom I’d written to say that I was finally headed off to Arizona for some R&R: “May your orphanhood be tanned.”

Orphanhood was a condition I had associated with news stories of disasters; a theme I had examined intellectually in literature at college and beyond. It’s one of the biggies, running through most of Melville, among others, and right down the middle of the great American novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

I’m an only child, albeit encompassed and generously loved by an abundance of relatives, forty-nine first cousins on the Buckley side alone. Still, I have no sibling with whom to share my orphanhood, so perhaps the experience is more acutely felt. Only children often have more intense, or at least more tightly focused, relationships with their parents than children of larger families. This was, at any rate, my experience.

I don’t know that I have anything particularly useful, much less profound, to impart about the business of losing one’s parents, other than this account of how it went in my case. I doubt you’ll be stunned to hear that it has a somewhat dampening effect on one’s general felicity and inclination to humor. I recall, on entering the vestibule of Leo P. Gallagher & Son Funeral Home the first time after Mum died, seeing a table stacked with pamphlets with titles like Losing a Loved One or The Grieving Process, illustrated with flowers and celestial sunbeams. As a satirist, which is to say someone who makes raspberries at the cosmos, my inclination is to parody: Okay, They’re Dead: Deal with It or Why It’s Going to Cost You $7,000 to Cremate Mummy. But standing there with my grief-stricken father, the banal suddenly didn’t seem quite so silly or in need of a kick in the rear end, and (believe me) I’m a veteran chortler over Oscar Wilde’s line “It would require a heart of stone not to laugh at the death of Little Nell.” Right after JFK was shot, Mary McGrory said to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “We’ll never laugh again,” to which Moynihan responded, “Mary, we’ll laugh again, but we’ll never be young again.”

It occurs to me that Moynihan’s reply brushes up against the nut of the orphanhood thing (as my former boss George H. W. Bush might put it) – namely, the accompanying realization that you’re next. With the death of the second parent, one steps – or is not-so-gently nudged – across the threshold into the Green Room to the river Styx.

One of my early memories, age five, is of being in bed with my parents and being awoken in the middle of the night by the ringing of the phone. A great commotion of grown-ups followed: Mum going down to make coffee, Pup hunched over the phone, speaking in grave, urgent tones. Of course, I found it all exciting and eventful and hoped it would involve – with any luck – a reprieve from school that day. “What is it?” I asked Mum. “Pup’s father has died, darling.” Apart from being in the car when she drove over the family cocker spaniel, this was my first brush with death. Then, an even half century later, the phone rang again with the news that my father had died.

In the Zen koan, the noble lord sends word throughout the land, offering a huge reward to anyone who can distill for him in poetry the definition of happiness. (This was in the days before Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?) A monk duly shuffled in and handed the nobleman a poem that read, in its entirety:

Grandfather dies
Father dies
Son dies.

His Lordship, having had in mind something a bit more, shall we say, upbeat, unsheathes his sword and is about to lop off the head of the impertinent divine. The monk says (in words to this effect), Dude, chill! This is the definition of perfect happiness – that no father should outlive his son. At this, His Lordship nods – or, more probably, after the fashion of Kurosawa’s sixteenth-century warlords, grunts emphatically – and hands the monk a sack of gold. I’m sure the story reads more inspiringly in the original medieval Japanese, brush-painted on a silk scroll, but it’s a nifty story, even as I now confront the fact that I have moved to the bottom line. My son, William Conor Buckley, whose namesake grandfather died on the morning of his sixteenth birthday, now himself moves one step closer to the Stygian Green Room, but if the old Zen monk’s formula holds, he won’t beat me to the river. Or so I, a heathen, fervently pray.

What People are Saying About This

"One of the rarest political specimens-- the authentically comic writer."
Boston Globe

"An accomplished comic novelist and raucously funny political satirist."
Sunday Times of London

"The quinessential political novelist of our time."

"One of the funniest writers in the English language."
—Tom Wolfe
Tom Wolfe
One of the funniest writers in the English language.
Chris Matthews
Read LOSING MUM AND PUP and you'll realize it would have been a mortal sin to have not written this book . . . Because he can write, because he cared and was perhaps driven to it, Christopher Buckley has given us— and the ages— something of his parents. Read his book and you sense truly that you know them.

Meet the Author

Christopher Buckley is the author of fourteen books, including Supreme Courtship, Boomsday, and Thank You For Smoking. He is editor-at-large of ForbesLife magazine, and was awarded the Thurber Prize for American Humor and the Washington Irving Medal for Literary Excellence. He lives on the Acela train between Washington, D.C. and New York City.

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Losing Mum and Pup 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 57 reviews.
drpab More than 1 year ago
Start to finish, just grand. A few people I recommended to demurred on the basis of not liking WFBs politics, or worried that it was going to be a Mommie dearest type . Couldn't be further from the truth, and those pople have retracted. Mr. Buckley's parents were large on the world stage but many of us have parents who are , on their own small stage, driven, smart, outrageous, loveable, frustrating-and you see sides of them that the public didn't. As a atheistic but "cultural Irish catholic ", DOB 1950, daughter , who lost her 88yr old Boston College cum laude-ex government officio - dad , this summer, I related to so much ( A week before he died he announced he was "very disappointed" I wouldn't help him get out of bed, into a wheelchair and sneak out of the hospital ). But anyone with a dying parent can relate-- anyone -who has had a parent can relate! And great stories about the Buckleys & other well known people, told / written marvelously. ( I had the audio book- he reads it very well and that Yalie accent does add to the enjoyment)
JulietCapulet More than 1 year ago
just because you're a full grown adult & the child of famous parents who you may have disagreed with, doesn't mean their deaths can't drop kick & sucker punch you -- a beautiful, beautiful book about your job being a child of parents that will have you proverbially laughing & crying at the same time...& bring your dictionary -- it's bill buckley's son after all!!
Jabeyo More than 1 year ago
As an admirer of Mr. Buckly, I found this to be a treasure on paper. Who better to recall the life and times of a great man than his only son. I laughed a lot, cried a little, and thoroughly enjoyed this tribute to a man whose writings will live on for many decades!
btc More than 1 year ago
A wonderful, poignant, funny and in many ways tearful recount of Christopher Buckley's parents' Patricia Taylor and William F. Buckley. Stories of their lives together and the adventures they experienced, keep the reader enthralled wondering how they will end. Buckley's humor brings out loud laughter on the antics of his most famous parents. Then, he will grab your heart strings with a warmth only those who have lost a parent or both can relate. Joan Didion's "The Year of Magicial Thinking" was an uplifting memorable book on coping with a loss and beautifully written. Buckley's has surpassed. The book is beautifully written. Each chapter flows taking the reader on a wonderful journey; right up to the very end. I loved the story, I loved the grace Buckley exhibits in his dealing with the loss of both parents in such a short time. A must read, for all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey!!! I set up my part of the oscars. Go to fanstasy oscars result two, four, six and eight to check it out. Now its your turn. -Chris
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey Chris!! I was reading the comments we have, and I was thinking, when we annouce the winner that we ask them for a speech as they accept their award. Sounds like a great idea right! Also to have DOS include these stories to be nominees nest time-- World of Lies, Griffin Feathers, and Daughter of Charm. And the fans want to have another oscars sooner.~ your lovable fan girl, Michelle
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
They arent even born yet..... post.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really thats just wierd
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
POST POST POST!!!!!)) Yes they are. There arr five. I have been watching.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Christopher Buckley is an awesome author who wrote a poignant family story. I was always intrigued by the Buckley family and can relate to the era that Christopher grew up in. He had magical parents who stood together and raised a fine son. He also had so much love for his Mum and Pup. They cared deeply for their son as well. Very honest writing with some humor mixed in. I enjoyed this VERY much!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
WritermomHB More than 1 year ago
On Losing My Mom and Dad Christopher Buckley is the only son of William F. Buckley, Jr. and his wife, Patricia Taylor Buckley. He is a very experienced, well-educated writer, as one would expect. When I purchased this book, I thought I would read about how the death of both of his parents within a short time of each other had affected him. I thought I would find if his feelings of being an orphan would be similar to mine. We are, after all, all orphans when both of our parents have passed away, a fact with which many of us struggle. The flap of the cover even talks about the writer offering solace and comfort through his experience. However, that was not what I found. Mr. Buckley has written about the events around his parents&rsquo; deaths, almost as they happened, a chronology, so to speak. The difference between his experience and mine, basically, is that his parents were famous, mine were not, and he wrote with exotic vocabulary, whereas I would not. I was very disappointed in this book. For a &ldquo;common&rdquo; reader, a dictionary must be in one hand in order to get through each page of the book with the other hand. The goal of a writer is to communicate with his readers, and Mr. Buckley must have thought his readers were all very well educated, with an enormous vocabulary. I found this book difficult for most readers, as well as uninteresting to most. Yes, his parents were &ldquo;famous&rdquo; people, but many people are &ldquo;famous&rdquo;. He was raised in a very unique experience and I enjoyed hearing about those experiences and the interesting people in his family&rsquo;s circle. I am so sorry to read about his dad&rsquo;s illnesses at the end of his life. William F. Buckley, Jr., was, after all, a very smart man. I would have thought he would have had more discipline than to continue some of his destructive habits. I would not recommend this book if one is looking for sharing the common experience of losing one&rsquo;s parents. If you want to read about how one man handled the death of his very famous parents, this might interest you. That is, of course, if you have your dictionary. I think, also, that you must have liked William F. Buckley, Jr.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
hotshots More than 1 year ago
Although I never agreed with Wm. F. Buckley on his political views, he was always fun to watch. His son (he called Christo) grew up with all the privaleges that come with wealth. I really enjoyed reading this book because it put a really human face on a life of a boy growing up under the tutelege of a powerful opinionated parent. I liked the book and I think Christopher turned out just fine.
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sandiek More than 1 year ago
Losing Mum And Pup is Christopher Buckley's memoir about growing up as the son of William F. Buckley and Pat Buckley, and then losing them both within a year. It starts with the death of Pat Buckley in the hospital, and then almost a year later, ends with the death of William F. Buckley of a heart attack in his office. Both led long, successful lives, and Christopher was in his mid-fifties when he lost them. Many people are familiar with William F. Buckley, his years of editing the conservative magazine, National Review, and of hosting the TV show Firing Line. Buckley is known as the lion of the modern conservative movement, and is revered by those who believe as he did. But the book does more than rehash talk about Buckley's politics. Christopher is successful in making his parents interesting to the reader. Pat Buckley was known as one of the premier hostesses of New York City, a fashion plate and arbitrator of taste. The reader also sees a side of William that might be surprising. He was a risk-taker, both in his work life and in his personal life. An example of this would be the time he flew to Boston in a small plane after having only an hour and a half of lessons. He loved to sail, and some of the best family times were those spent on various boats. He was an intensely religious man, and his religion focused his actions in every venue. Renowned for his kindness, he befriended those of every political stripe and people in every walk of life. Losing parents is a journey that most adults will inevitably face. Losing Mum and Pup shows how one man went on this journey gracefully, glad that he was there for his parents in their last years. One lesson that was evident was how little the typical family resentments between parent and child end up being, and how overpowering the influence and love between them is and how it endures. This book is receommended for all readers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Christopher Buckley managed to write touchingly about many of the end-of-life issues that all families face, and gave hope to those of us who had similar issues that we're not alone in either the experiences or emotions associated with these issues. Plus the writer gave readers a fascinating and intimate look at one of America's most famous families.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago