Celebrated author Walter Kirn joins Allison on Media Mayhem and speaks with insight and brilliance about the state of American politics and the fun house mirror of class that informs us. From the current election and media horse race, to detailing his own relationship with modern criminal Gatsby, “Clark Rockefeller,” Walter and Allison talk frankly about the fascinating perception shift of journalists and the public at large.
While so many outlets urge their audience to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, this discussion brings the focus back to the truth beyond the manipulation.
Walter Kirn is a graduate of Princeton University. He has published a collection of short stories and several novels, including Thumbsucker, which was made into a 2005 film featuring Keanu Reeves and Vince Vaughn; Up in the Air, a feature film directed by Jason Reitman; and Mission to America. He has also written The Unbinding, an Internet-only novel that was published in Slate magazine.
Kirn has also reviewed books for New York Magazine and has written for The New York Times Book Review and New York Times Sunday Magazine, and is a contributing editor of Time, where he has received popularity for his entertaining and sometimes humorous first-person essays among other articles of interest. He also served as an American cultural correspondent for the BBC.
In addition to teaching nonfiction writing at the University of Montana, Kirn was the 2008-09 Vare Nonfiction Writer in Residence at the University of Chicago.
00:01 Welcome to Media Mayhem.
01:10 Introducing Walter Kirn.
02:41 Examining Mitt Romney’s candidacy and the media narrative of his Mormonism.
06:44 “Do you really think Romney could win?”
09:17 The skewed coverage of political horse race and the media’s interest in drama.
14:16 Walter’s favorite news innovation of the last few years; the elevation of the trivial.
16:44 Romney’s closet intellectualism vs. “NASCAR” voters.
20:40 The increased division of a population in hard times.
23:33 “What do you think of the media’s coverage of the recession?”
26:28 The shifting ideal of media from working-class to celebrity.
28:38 The media drops the ball on Occupy and global movements.
31:29 “Are American’s xenophobic?” Turning the telescope around.
33:56 Walter’s connection to “Clark Rockefeller.”
37:59 Being dazzled by the upper-class.
41:58 When the upper class go on vacation in bohemia.
44:20 The amazing thing about “Clark Rockefeller:” Duping the aristocracy.
48:08 How prison changes a man: Rags to Riches to Prison Orange.
50:00 Could “Clark Rockefeller” have succeeded in a world without Google?
51:34 Is upward mobility and self-reinvention gone in the information age?
53:56 Walter’s greatest American hero.
57:23 “Lost in the Meritocracy,” and the closing door of education.
1:01:11 The two groups of the Ivy league and vanished middle class.