Walter Kirn is the critically acclaimed author of the novels THE UNBINDING, SHE NEEDED ME, THUMBSUCKER, which was made into a film in 2005 starring Vince Vaughn, Keanu Reeves and Tilda Swinton, and UP IN THE AIR, which was made into a film starring George Clooney. He is a contributing editor to Time and GQ and a regular reviewer for The New York Times Book Review. Portions of his previous novels have been excerpted in the New Yorker, GQ, and Esquire.
LOST IN THE MERITOCRACY: THE UNDEREDUCATION OF AN OVERACHIEVER
“A funny, self-mocking memoir about how persistently Mr. Kirn went astray. . . . Great fun.”
—The New York Times
A memoir told through the lens of the author’s Ivy League (mis)education as he moved from a midwestern high school to Princeton University to Oxford to Vanity Fair working under then-editor Tina Brown. It’s the story, simply put, of what he learned – not from childhood psychological traumas, not from bouts with the bottle and the like, but from instructors, schools, and fellow students as he pursued that seemingly most ordinary yet strangely mysterious enterprise: obtaining an education and absorbing all that it conveyed about achievement, social class, ambition and the meaning of getting ahead.
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“Kirn's The Unbinding merits our close attention, not only for itself—the man is a talented writer—but for what might be portended for the art of fiction.”
—The Boston Globe
Kent Selkirk is an operator at AidSat. An omni-present subscriber service ready to answer, solve, and assist with the client’s every problem, AidSat monitors subscribers’ vital signs and responds to more than 600 common Life Challenges.
Through the AidSat network Kent has a wealth of information at his fingertips, so when he notices that his foxy neighbor Sabrina is a subscriber, he can’t help but try and use his resources to seduce her. But Sabrina is spying on him too. And so is someone else, noting the videos they rent, the diaries they keep online, and watching carefully for something called The Unbinding. Diabolically contemporary, funny, and whip-smart, Walter Kirn’s THE UNBINDING is a dark comedy of our not-so-distant future. Originally serialized on slate.com, THE UNBINDING is the first genuine “Net Novel” by a prominent novelist. It has been reprinted in its entirety by Vintage Anchor.
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MISSION TO AMERICA
“At once a road trip, a coming-of-age narrative, and a broad skewering of American dislocation and decadence.”
—The Boston Globe
Mason LaVerle is a young man on a mission–a mission to America. He was raised in a remote Montana town in the church of the Aboriginal Risen Apostles, a matriarchal, New-Ageish sect that, like the Amish, keeps a wary distance from mainstream life. But the Apostles face a dwindling membership, so Mason is sent on an outreach mission with another young man to bring back converts — and, more specifically, brides. And so these two naive believers head off in a van to encounter the contemporary scene in all its bewildering, seductive diversity. They proselytize at malls, passing out leaflets in parking garages based on the condition of their cars and their bumper stickers.
When they make their way to a gilded Colorado ski town while promoting their un-American message of humble, serene, optimistic fatalism, Mason finds himself courting a young woman who used to pose for Internet porn sites and his partner becomes the live-in guru of a guilt-ridden billionaire with chronic bowel complaints. Meanwhile back in Montana, the Apostles are facing schism and extinction as their beloved leader, the Seeress, drifts toward death. The mounting pressures lead Mason to the brink of missionary madness.
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UP IN THE AIR
“A dead-on, wry portrait of the life of the road warrior.”
—The Washington Post
Ryan Bingham’s job as a Career Transition Counselor—he fires people—has kept him airborne for years. Although he despises his line of work, he has come to love the culture of what he calls “Airworld.” With a letter of resignation sitting on his boss’s desk, and the hope of a job with a mysterious firm, Bingham is agonizingly close to his ultimate goal: one million frequent-flyer miles.
UP IN THE AIR is a brilliantly diverting novel that peers deeply into the world of modern business and its debilitating effects on the human soul. The award-winning film adaptation stars George Clooney.
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“THUMBSUCKER is funny, scary, sharp, smooth, and (in a provocative sense) clean. If there were more of this kind of thing around, you could get addicted to it.”
—Roy Blount Jr.
This eighties-centric, Ritalin-fueled, pitch-perfect comic novel brings energy and originality to the classic Midwestern coming-of-age story. Meet Justin Cobb, “the King Kong of oral obsessives” (as his dentist dubs him) and the most appealingly bright and screwed-up fictional adolescent since Holden Caulfield donned his hunter’s cap. For years, no remedy—not orthodontia, not the escalating threats of his father, Mike, a washed-out linebacker turned sporting goods entrepreneur, not the noxious cayenne pepper-based Suk-No-Mor—can cure Justin’s thumbsucking habit. Then a course of hypnosis seemingly does the trick, but true to the conservation of neurotic energy, the problem doesn’t so much disappear as relocate. Sex, substance abuse, speech team, fly-fishing, honest work, even Mormonism—Justin throws himself into each pursuit with a hyperactive energy that even his daily Ritalin dose does little to blunt. Each time, however, he discovers that there is no escaping the unruly imperatives of his self and the confines of his deeply eccentric family. The only “cure” for the adolescent condition is time and distance.
The film, made in 2005, stars Vince Vaughn, Keanu Reeves and Tilda Swinton. Always funny, poignant, and deeply wise on the vexed subject of fathers and sons, Walter Kirn’s THUMBSUCKER is an utterly fresh and all-American take on the painful process of growing up.