Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Ruling Class Who Doesn't Like It

I get emails from something called Very Short List (VSL). I heard about it from a friend, and I know Kurt Andersen is involved. Today, in my VSL was a review of Walter Kirn's new memoir Lost in the Meritocracy. Maybe it was just my Springtime sinus headache, but I was in no mood for this bit about Kirn's Princeton education:

'“The essence of my training was to confuse the approval of my trainers with my own happiness,” Kirn writes. At the end of his journey, Kirn realized that instead of an education, what he’d received was an invitation to join America’s ruling class; decades later, the bad taste still lingers in his mouth.'

Kirn writes regularly for The New York Times--for the Sunday magazine, for the book review, for all kinds of places. He's published novels, he's a widely respected man of letters, and he lives in Bozeman. Montana. If Kirn really didn't like being part of the ruling cultural elite, then I wouldn't instantly recognize his name. Which is to say that that last sentence about the bad taste Kirn's education left in his mouth, a sentence no doubt written by someone who had a highly meritricious education and reviewed by Andersen, Kirn's former colleague at the seminal Spy magainze, drips with too much hypocrisy. Maybe I have to read the memoir to get the nuance here, but while Kirn may not like the taste of that invitation to the ruling class, he's had no trouble accepting it. He's fulfilled his ambitions so well it that now he gets to cast aspersions on it, like those angst-ridden pop-songs of regret by mega stars. It's something I'd expect from, say, Judith Warner, and it's so unappealing.

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