kirn con


“Making money,” writes Kirn, “didn’t interest me. While my classmates signed up for on-campus ‘face-to-faces’ with Wall Street investment firms … I scanned the horizon for another test to take, another contest to compete in. … For me, wealth and power were trivial by-products in the great generational tournament of aptitude. The ranking itself was the essential prize.” Here, we see, the young Kirn was a romantic. But I doubt he was quite the deranged romantic the old Kirn makes him out to be. His telling of the tale of his cynicism is more cynical than the cynicism it describes. At Princeton, he was an approval-seeking, and approval-deprived poet and playwright who at times suffered a debilitating drug habit. He got laid, it seems to me, a fair amount. He read W. B. Yeats and John Berryman and wrote plays with titles like Soft White Kids in Leather (which, by the way, was later staged at the Edinburgh Festival). Though the son of a lawyer, he was too often a poor boy in a rich man’s house. A frank memoir about this experience, one undetermined by the publishing trends of the moment, might have been funny, even—when young Kirn hits bottom—moving. But this market-tuned book, fastened to a social problem about which its author has little of substance to say, and sweetened with just enough Hollywood-style titillation, seems destined to be made into one of those movies that nobody sees. No matter. Kirn has already cashed out. The con is complete.

more from Christian Lorentzen at n+1 here.