Rick Perlstein

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Eric S. Perlstein
Rick Perlstein at a piano, selecting music to play from a book of jazz standards, Chicago, March 2013.
Born 1969
Ethnicity Jewish[1]
Education University of Chicago (B.S., 1992)
University of Michigan
Occupation Writer

Eric S. "Rick" Perlstein (born September 3, 1969) is an American historian and journalist, who has won wide acclaim for his chronicles of the 1960s and 1970s and the American conservative movement.[2] Perlstein is the author of three bestselling books and is the winner of the 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus.[3] Politico has dubbed Perlstein " a chronicler extraordinaire of modern conservatism."[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Perlstein was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to a Reform Jewish family, the third child of Jerold and Sandra ( née Friedman) Perlstein.[5] His father, Jerold Perlstein, ran Bonded Messenger Service, a delivery company founded by his grandfather in 1955. Perlstein grew up in the Bayside and Fox Point neighborhoods of suburban Milwaukee, taking cross country trips with his parents and siblings to national landmarks like Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park.[6] In high school, upon earning his driver's license Perlstein would head to Renaissance Bookstore in downtown Milwaukee, spending hours in its basement among stacks of old magazines from the 1960s. Perlstein would later recount in an interview, "I ended up getting my own archive on the 1960s culture wars. That's where it started." [7] Following graduation from Nicolet High School, Perlstein attended the University of Chicago, earning a B.A. in History in 1992.[8] While at the University of Chicago, years Perlstein described as "delightfully noisy and dissent"—a stark contrast to the suburbia of his youth that he said "felt like a jail"—where he was able to engage with and catch neighborhood jam sessions.[9]

Early career[edit]

After graduate study in American studies at the University of Michigan, Perlstein moved to New York in 1994, settling in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn.[10] While in New York, Perlstein interned at Lingua Franca, a magazine about academic and intellectual life, where he would become an associate editor.[11] Perlstein also began writing book reviews, for publications like The Nation and Slate.[12][13] It was Perlstein's 1996 Lingua Franca essay "Who Owns the Sixties?" that won him public notice, by exposing the emerging chasm between older and younger historians.[14] The essay also aroused the attention of a literary agent and soon after earned him a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.[15]

Critical acclaim[edit]

In 1997, Perlstein began work on a history of the rise of Barry Goldwater, a transformative event for the conservative movement. Perlstein's book, Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, was released in 2001 to widespread acclaim, including a laudatory New York Times review by Irving Kristol, the so-called "godfather of Neoconservatism." Kristol wrote of Before the Storm, "It's an amazing story, and Perlstein, a man of the left, does it justice."[16] Perlstein won the 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in History.[17] Soon after, Perlstein moved from New York to Chicago. Froom 2003 to 2005, Perlstein was the Village Voice's national political correspondent, and contributed articles to publications that included the New York Times, The New Republic and The American Prospect.

Beginning in spring 2007 through 2009 Perlstein was a Senior Fellow at the Campaign for America's Future where he wrote for their blog about the failures of conservative governance, The Big Con. A co-director at the Campaign for America's Future once noted, "Rick was unique…I don't know when he sleeps."[18][19][20]


In May 2008, Perlstein's Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America was published to rave reviews.[21][22][23][24][25][26] In his review, the conservative columnist George Will credited Perlstein having "a novelist’s, or perhaps an anthropologist’s, eye for illuminating details" and called Nixonland "compulsively readable." [27] At the end of 2008, The New York Times included Nixonland among its notable books.[28] In 2009, The A.V. Club included it among the best books of the decade.[29]

The Invisible Bridge[edit]

In August 2014, Simon & Schuster published The Invisible Bridge: the Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan. In his New York Times review, Frank Rich wrote that the tome was "a Rosetta stone for reading America and its politics today."[30] The Invisible Bridge received favorable reviews from The New Yorker, Slate, and The Washington Post among others.


On August 4, 2014, a New York Times article reported that Perlstein's 2014 book The Invisible Bridge, received "sharp criticism from some scholars and commentators who accuse Mr. Perlstein of sloppy scholarship, improper attribution and plagiarism." Conservative author and historian Craig Shirley alleged that Perlstein stole distinctive words and phrasing from Reagan’s Revolution.'[31]

However, supporters of Perlstein's work viewed Shirley's accusations as a partisan attack meant to discredit scholarship that ran contrary to his views. Responding to numerous complaints, an August 12, 2014 blog post by Margret Sullivan, the New York Times public editor, dismissed the plagiarism allegations as a "smear," and criticized the reporting for "[C]onferr[ing] a legitimacy on the accusation it would not otherwise have had."[32] An additional analysis by Mark Liberman, the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, found that at least one of Shirley's books contained similar instances in which he borrowed details and paraphrased passages from other published works, despite his insistence that Perlstein's doing so amounted to "plagiarism."[33]

Responding to letters from Mr. Shirley and his attorneys, Perlstein's publisher, Simon and Schuster, issued a statement that the claims of plagiarism "ignored the most basic principal of copyright law." Those same letters from Shirley's attorneys demanded that Simon and Shuster pay Shirley $25 million in damages, pulp all copies of The Invisible Bridge and take out ads of apology in various publications. If these demands weren't met, the letters promised that a lawsuit would be filed on July 30, 2014, nearly a week before the book was to be released on August 5. However, as of August 8, 2014 there was no evidence a lawsuit had ever been filed.[34] For his part, Perlstein said, "Mr. Shirley has sued me for $25 million and tried to keep people from reading my book; I’ve told everyone to read his book."[35]



  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ http://www.rollingstone.com/contributor/rick-perlstein
  3. ^ "Book Prizes – Los Angeles Times Festival of Books» 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes Winners". events.latimes.com. Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  4. ^ "Historian bridges left-right divide". POLITICO. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  5. ^ "Obituary: Jerold Irving Perlstein | SummitDaily.com". The Summit Daily. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  6. ^ "Perlstein planned, traveled and pursued everything he loved". www.jsonline.com. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  7. ^ "'The Invisible Bridge': 10 or So Questions with Rick Perlstein". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  8. ^ "Rick Perlstein". Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  9. ^ "The New York Times Magazine College Essay Contest". www.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  10. ^ "GMTODAY - Books - Mequon native Rick Perlstein". www.gmtoday.com. Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  11. ^ "Reagan Rising: Rick Perlstein". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  12. ^ "Infinite Jest. - The Nation | HighBeam Research". www.highbeam.com. Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  13. ^ Perlstein, Rick (1997-11-05). "Boston vs. Austin". Slate (in en-US). ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  14. ^ "Historians Duke It Out Over The '60s". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  15. ^ "Reagan Rising: Rick Perlstein". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  16. ^ "In His Heart, He Knew He Was Right". www.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  17. ^ "Book Prizes – Los Angeles Times Festival of Books» Winners By Award". events.latimes.com. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  18. ^ Rick Perlstein Biography, Huffington Post
  19. ^ Biography, Campaign for America's Future
  20. ^ Henderson, Harold. "Sympathy for the Devil?". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  21. ^ "The Fall of Conservatism". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  22. ^ "Our favorite books of 2008". www.avclub.com. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  23. ^ "Rick Perlstein: Nixonland". www.avclub.com. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  24. ^ "E Pluribus Nixon". The Atlantic (in en-US). https://plus.google.com/109258622984321091629. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  25. ^ "A Nation Divided In 'Nixonland'". NPR.org. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  26. ^ "Rick Perlstein’s ‘Nixonland': A Gripping Look at the Nixon Era". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  27. ^ Will, George F. (2008-05-11). "Bring Us Apart". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  28. ^ "100 Notable Books of 2008". The New York Times. 2008-12-07. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  29. ^ "The best books of the ’00s". www.avclub.com. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  30. ^ Rich, Frank (2014-07-31). "‘The Invisible Bridge,’ by Rick Perlstein". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  31. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/05/business/media/rick-perlsteins-the-invisible-bridge-draws-criticism.html
  32. ^ http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/12/was-an-accusation-of-plagiarism-really-a-political-attack/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0
  33. ^ http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=13914#ShirleysPatchwriting
  34. ^ https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140807/09270928138/reagan-biographer-claims-copyright-infringement-because-another-biographer-used-same-facts.shtml
  35. ^ "The Paris Review Toasts Rick Perlstein's New Book, The Invisible Bridge". Observer (in en-US). https://plus.google.com/112242738293247903578/. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 

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