July 6, 2009

Easy offers

Prominent man of letters Walter Kirn writes an essay in the New York Times Magazine "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Aptitude," in which he explains (to the extent that "explain" can be used to characterize his effort):

1. He wants you to know that he got very high SAT scores, which helped get him into Princeton
2. But he's not all stuck up over it; in fact, he says he's really not that smart
3. Women of Color worked much harder at Princeton than he did
4. So, Sonia Sotomayor was right about Ricci
5. Now that he's long graduated from Princeton, he sort of thinks that his place should have been given to "another Sotomayor."
6. Walter Kirn, a frequent contributor, is the author, most recently, of “Lost in the Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overachiever.”

It's always fun to learn about people on Wikipedia. One thing you learn is that it's easier to theoretically give up in the name of diversity privileges you got in the past than to give up in actuality privileges you are getting in the present. Wikipedia reports that Kirn has two academic jobs that no doubt he could have foresworn so that "another Sotomayor" could have had them instead of him, but, for some reason, he didn't:
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.

Kirn, who has published seven books (two of them have been filmed), appears to have had something going for himself besides just his SAT scores:
Kirn married Maggie McGuane, a model and the daughter of actress Margot Kidder and novelist Thomas McGuane, in 1995. Kirn was 32 at the time; McGuane was 19.

Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane in the original "Superman," was one of the great beauties of the 1970s. She was married from 1975 to 1976 to the then-promising novelist Thomas McGuane during his "Captain Berserko" phase as a Hollywood screenwriter and director (92 in the Shade). Glamorous in-laws, but perhaps not the most stable ones: Kirn's ex-wife writes in the current Vogue:
Nor did I have role models of frugality to draw on: My mother, who raised me with both an excess of funds and socialist-leaning ideals [one of her mother's boyfriends was Pierre Trudeau], likes to joke that she considers wealth the way most view bacterial infections—to be gotten rid of, before it has a chance to grow.

Apparently, the Kirn-McGuane marriage didn't end all that amicably. The New York Observer reports:
Mr. [Jay Bright Lights Big City] McInerney was standing with Maggie McGuane, the daughter of acclaimed writer and legendary partier Thomas McGuane. ... Mr. McGuane’s daughter said her father considered his drinking days “invisible—never happened.” She used to be married to the writer Walter Kirn. “He used to be a big drinker, but now he’s a teetotaler, too,” said Ms. McGuane, who resides in Montana and works as a journalist. “If I had any message, it would be ‘Beware of the teetotaler.’ Because they’re absolutists, and they can be a little dangerous.”

It turns out that Kirn might be a little personally biased about the Ricci white firefighter case, since, judging by Jezebel's brusque summary of Maggie McGuane's 2007 article in Vogue about how her boyfriend's son is enlisting in the military, his ex-wife may have cuckolded him with a white firefighter:
The things you learn when you divorce your raging a****** literati husband to marry a firefighter! The story goes on to talk about how sometimes we forget that there are actually white people in the military with moms who take yoga and everything, and that firefighters don't necessarily think it's a stupid idea for their sons to enlist in the army which can be a BIG turn-off if you are a wealthy writerly type who is married to one. (Quote: "Our once fiery romance grew closer in temperature to Haagen-Dazs.") But then when Maggie's brawny new fireman husband watches his son go to Kentucky and thinks about maybe what it would be like if he replaced "Kentucky" with "Ramadi" he too realizes Operation Iraqi Freedom was a bad idea, just like she was telling him all along, and even starts to attend peace protests, so it's really okay that rich people don't have to shoulder as much of the burden as poor people because if poor people didn't lose so many lives in wars they wouldn't realize how f*****-up American foreign policy is, which rich people know about just by reading erudite publications such as Vogue.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

69 comments:

Anonymous said...

“”””3. Women of Color worked much harder at Princeton than he did”””

I notice he does not say what they worked at nor if they accomplished much.

I can work for years at being a tap dancer but since I have no rhythm my accomplishments at tap dancing would be poor at best.

DJF

OneSTDV said...

"Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane in the original "Superman," was one of the great beauties of the 1970s."

Really? I was always disappointed with her as Lois because I felt she wasn't anywhere near attractive enough (compare her to Teri Hatcher back in the 90's).

Was the 70's an eccentric period of "beauty"?

AMac said...

Mr. Sailer, this Upper West Side auteur and partier must be less sclerotic in his thinking than you suggest:

"Kirn was the 2008-09 VDare Nonfiction Writer in Residence at the University of Chicago."

Oh. Excess D. Never mind.

What with Wikipedia and your critiques, reading Komsomolskaya -Pravda-on-the-Hudson has never been so rewarding.

Is Mr. Kirn a public intellectual of the stature of Barry Ritholtz? Will he actually address Sailer's arguments? Given that the height of The Hamptons' season is approaching, I doubt he'll have the time. Priorities. Still, it would be fun.

Guts Strongman said...

Nice work here -- it would do the public good to have more details about journalists known, generally. However, I think you are slightly misrepresenting what he wrote in point #5. It is actually worse than you let on. He refuses to go out and say his spot should've been given to a Sotomayor, but rather wants to complicate matters which are, actually, simple.

The orthodox combination of high-school transcripts and SAT scores that allowed me into Princeton wasn’t, I found out after I was admitted, a guarantee of my ability to make the most of its academic offerings. Put simply, I wasted a lot of time there, I engaged in a lot of shoddy, pretentious dodges, and maybe I shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Perhaps someone else deserved my spot — someone whose talents weren’t so easily indexed but might have been another Sotomayor. How would I know? And that’s the point: I can’t.

Which is why certain questions of merit and advancement have no definitive answers and, on occasion, ought to be left blank.


My comment:
Transcripts and GPA "guarantee" nothing. They are just tools to aid in discerning who might be best suited for the spot. The author isn't prepared to argue that people with LOWER GPAs and SATs should be admitted across the board--rather, he wants to wallow in mystery.

Sure, in any particular case, there might be some candidate who was better suited to the spot than the one who gained it. However, no prospective method exists to reliably find that candidate, and thus it is worthless as a policy point.

So, why wallow in mysterian thinking? As you've indicated, probably to indicate the strong SWPL'ism of "I'm very smart but not at all stuck up about it."

Lloyd G. said...

Kirn looks kinda lost here:

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/228190/may-19-2009/walter-kirn

Anonymous said...

Why even expect so much as a land grant college b.a. from a Supreme Court nominee? There have got to be plenty of Solomons out there who never graduated from high school.

anony-mouse said...

Hmmm. Can I assume from this that Steve get his foreign policy ideas by reading Vogue?

AMac said...

Kirn's article implies that the younger him was invited into the Princeton "aptocracy" on the strength of his SAT scores--"aptitude"--alone.

For a white or Asian candidate, this premise is too absurd for even the Magazine's audience to swallow.

Indeed, the essay's faux modesty is complemented by subtle boasting in the penultimate paragraph: "The orthodox combination of high-school transcripts and SAT scores that allowed me into Princeton..."

If they stop to think about it, even SWPL readers will recognize that transcripts do not measure aptitude. They measure performance in the high school academic setting. Duh.

Kirn is a fake as well as a flake.

Roger Chaillet said...

His attitude is no different than that of George Bush.

Bush is all about rewarding mestizos at the expense of native born whites, as long as these whites are not his dope smoking offspring.

That's why he was an ardent supporter of race based preferences in university admissions.

There was no personal downside, but plenty of upside for unqualified blacks and mestizos.

And exactly zero harm politically.

Sweet!

Anonymous said...

It's time for equality.

End affirmative action now.

John Anello said...

I've met some guilty white liberals in my day but Mr. Kirn takes the cake.

He compares himself to the AA Princeton kids because he comes from a small Midwest town. He wants us to see how he actually understands the plight of minorities in America because in a sense, he is just like them. Oh, he can relate to them, he felt ostracized at Princeton, too.

These people crack me up.

headache said...

Where to begin. But this ties in with my few personal brushes with so-called "successful" people. Generally they think that all that success was of their own accord, and that they have a valid reason to look down on the others. They just absolutely ignore the manipulation of hierarchies, the political games and the abuse of power, any nepotism or unfair behavior on their part. Or just plain good luck. No, they think the reason they are tops is because they worked so much harder than all the other lazy losers. They are also incredibly greedy; they can never earn enough money. Things like good workmanship, or looking at your job as a calling, are just puerile ideas, garbage for losers. Usually they also abuse alcohol, have no respect for other's personal boundaries, and when the get emotional it's usually pathetic and sentimental. They mistake sentimentality for real deep feelings. I've met one or other lower "elite" and by extrapolation I now realize why the West is so f.u.

Anonymous said...

in the same way we have 'goodwin's law' on the internet, we should have Sailer's law: "no elite may champion diversity unless it is to announce they are giving up their, or their offspring's positions of 'white privilege'.

In addition any group that seems to cluster in universities or, say entertainment, and seems to practice ethnic nepotism will NOT be excluded.

we can dream, can't we?

Anonymous said...

"1. He wants you to know that he got very high SAT scores, which helped get him into Princeton"

...from Montana.

"2. But he's not all stuck up over it; in fact, he says he's really not that smart."

...compared to the brightest students graduating HS in 1980 from CA, MA, NY, NJ, and Conn.. But hey, in MT he's a real genius.

Back in the 70's the training wheel version of diversity and inclusion at the Ivy Leagues included the category "geographic" Which meant enrolling a few white hayseeds for the hillbilly fun of it. (But most of them were really the kids of city slicker transplants pretending to have rural roots.)

MQ said...

Maggie McGuane actually seems pretty cool, based on the recent Vogue article linked. Plus, awesome cheekbones.

Bob said...

This is the guy who married a famous actress and model's 19-year-old daughter????

http://www.rawprint.com/media/2007/0711/cc_colbert_nov01_2007_walter_kirn.jpg

I need to get out more.

Dutch Boy said...

Margot Kidder is an unstable bipolar nutcake who ended up in the gutter at one time. It's a terrible disease both for the sufferer and his family (one step above schizophrenia).

Anonymous said...

After reading Steve and others on the topic of AA and discrimination against whites, and considering the demographic shift, it occurs to me that it is unreasonable to expect to be a majority when you produce so few children. It would be interesting to know how many white children say aged 0-4 in the US

Now if those who are commenting here each have six kids, then please correct me.

Anonymous said...

On all future votes regarding affirmative action, those voting "yea" should be required to immediately vacate their positions in favor of someone of another race. Or, they can choose to give up their adult child's spot. Either one. Let's see who really supports the idea.

Anonymous said...

Kirn is a good writer. His Atlantic piece, "Lost in the Meritocracy" was very good, and I liked his novel _Up in the Air_.

He has a bizarre chip on his shoulder over getting into Princeton based on his SAT score. The funny thing is, he's a perfect example of how the SAT was supposed to work -- it picked a kid out of a little town out West and sent him on the road to status and achievement (despite his aw-shucksing, it's obvious he was a gifted student).

I think it's part of the "disillusionment narrative" that is so prominent in modern life -- X (Princeton in this case) isn't what it's cracked up to be, and I'm a fraud too. George Kennan, a few generations ago, had the good sense to be thrilled that he had gotten into Princeton. No doubt Chinese exchange students are equally sensible.

Black Sea said...

" . . . it's easier to theoretically give up in the name of diversity privileges you got in the past than to give up in actuality privileges you are getting in the present."

In much the same way that it's easier to comfort the afflicted using other people's money.

BTW, Kirn is from Minnesota, not Montana. Thomas McGuane is originally from Michigan, but moved to Montana, as did Kirn, in his adulthood. Montana has become a popular spot for various literay and Hollywood types to reinvent themselves in.

I realize that all of these "M" states are confusing to some.

Anonymous said...

--I've met some guilty white liberals in my day but Mr. Kirn takes the cake.--

Guilty he ain't.

Old Pete said...

"...I wasted a lot of time there, I engaged in a lot of shoddy, pretentious dodges, and maybe I shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Perhaps someone else deserved my spot — someone whose talents weren’t so easily indexed but might have been another Sotomayor."

Good point, Walter. I'm sure you won't find any shoddy, pretentious dodging in the scholarship of the "Sotomayors" that inhabit the ethnics studies departments at elite universities. ;-)

Dave said...

"He has a bizarre chip on his shoulder over getting into Princeton based on his SAT score. The funny thing is, he's a perfect example of how the SAT was supposed to work -- it picked a kid out of a little town out West and sent him on the road to status and achievement (despite his aw-shucksing, it's obvious he was a gifted student)."

Two details Kirn left out of that essay: his father was a Princeton alum (which makes him a legacy), and he transferred into Princeton from another school, which means his SATs and transcripts probably weren't good enough to get their directly, even as a legacy.

Mr Apostrophe said...

Allow me to coin a term to describe Kirn's take on affirmative action:

BENEVOLENT PARASITISM

Now don't you feel better?

Well, time for delousing--ciao!

Anonymous said...

Black Sea said:
"BTW, Kirn is from Minnesota, not Montana."

Walter Kirn graduated from a HS in Mc Leod, Montana. So don't get snippy about my geography.

Anonymous said...

Articles by white males such as these are three dozen a dime. What they never include, however, is a reflection on the fact that an unknowable number of working class white males--who didn't have high SAT scores but who, unlike SOTOMAYOR, WERE NOT accepted to Princeton--might also have gone on to excel at Princeton (or Columbia or Yale).

S.A. Smith

Anonymous said...

"Was the 70's an eccentric period of "beauty"?"

The likes of Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman were considered "Leading Man" types,what's that tell you?
Both were/are great actors,but not even their momma's called them beauty's.

As for Kirn,it's not to late for a little white guilt expiation,just fire his over privileged a$$ and give his job to a more deserving "woman of color".

Anonymous said...

"Q [PAW]: Tell us about your family.
A [Kirn]: I grew up in a tiny Minnesota town of 500 people called Marine-on-St.-Croix. My father actually went to Princeton, Class of 1960, and was a patent attorney at 3M in Minnesota. My mother, like the mother in Thumbsucker, was a registered nurse. [snip]

Q: And your Princeton experience?
A: I was a transfer student my sophomore year, from Macalaster College in Minnesota. I really was wet behind the ears. I found Princeton intellectually stimulating but socially bewildering . . . I studied poetry, and I wanted to be a poet. I did what I think may have been the shortest creative thesis in the history of Princeton-it was a collection of poems, about 14 pages long-and won the thesis prize for it."

also

"Six years ago [1993], [Kirn] left Manhattan for Montana"

Princeton Alumni Weekly magazine, 11/3/1999

Anonymous said...

I think at last the Ivy Leagues have been demystified. If Sotomayor can graduate at the top of her class in Princeton, so can any applicant whether he's accepted or not.

Ivy education is just an exercise in branding. It's a soft guarantee that if the student is East Asian or Caucasian, they have an IQ over (probably way over) 136, as determined by a SAT or ACT test. As for other minority grads, it's anyone's guess, but they are probably smarter than average.

It's interesting that most Ivy students come out of college dumber than they went in:
http://www.americancivicliteracy.org/2006/major_findings.html.

Not only that, they're four years older, with approximately 200,000 to 400,000 fewer brain cells, depending on how much imbibing they did. At my college, a common complaint among senior math majors - those high IQ canaries in a coal mine -- was that they no longer had the same powers of concentration or acumen. Hiding behind the excuse that they were burned out from over work (instead of disabled by cognitive decline), most went off to less intellectually demanding fields, like law or "Financial Engineering" (a term that always makes me think of a swaying Tacoma Narrows Bridge showering nickles and dimes into the river below.)

green mamba said...

"Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane in the original "Superman," was one of the great beauties of the 1970s. She was married from 1975 to 1976 to the then-promising novelist Thomas McGuane during his "Captain Berserko" phase as a Hollywood screenwriter and director (92 in the Shade)."

I love posts like this for these kinds of cultural tidbits. And yes, STDV, Kidder was quite fetching in the 70's. Check out Brian DePalma's "Sisters" from 1973 to see her in her prime. Knowing her only as the rather plain Lois Lane, I was surprised to see how sexy she was in this movie - much softer and more feminine, playing a French-Canadian model/psycho with a delicious accent.

Perhaps by the end of the Seventies drugs and feminism had reduced her appeal. A similar fate was suffered by Jennifer Salt, Kidder's beach house roommate during the wild and promiscuous early Seventies, who was a voluptuous young beauty in that period (see 'Midnight Cowboy' or Robert Altman's 'Brewster McCloud'), but by the late Seventies was known only as the skinny, unappealing Enis on the TV series 'Soap'.

Svigor said...

Note all the surnames of British-but-not-English extraction.

Dave said...

""Financial Engineering" (a term that always makes me think of a swaying Tacoma Narrows Bridge showering nickles and dimes into the river below.)"

That's a great image.

Svigor said...

Really? I was always disappointed with her as Lois because I felt she wasn't anywhere near attractive enough (compare her to Teri Hatcher back in the 90's).

Disappointed is one way of putting it, if you're being nice.

But Teri Hatcher? Has she ever been anywhere near the hype? Maybe her appearance in that Bond flick looms too large in my mind; I kept thinking she was waaaay out of her league.

Anonymous said...

From the National Merit Scholarship directory.

WALTER KIRN 's Profile Details
WALTER KIRN (1980)
Mc Leod, Montana

Registered on: Not registered
Profile Last Updated on: Sep 4 2008

USA People search results:

Walter Sr:
KIRN JR, WALTER N

Associated names:
KIRN, WALTER
KIRN, WALTER N
71

GREEN VALLEY, AZ
MARINE ON SAINT CROIX, MN
SAINT PAUL, MN
SHAFER, MN
MC LEOD, MT
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK

Walter JR:
KIRN, WALTER NORRIS

Associated names:
KIRN, WALTER N

SHAFER, MN
LIVINGSTON, MT
ASTORIA, NY
NEW YORK, NY
SO ASTORIA, NY

Phone Number Available MCGUANE, MARGARET K (age 30)
KIRN, CHONG H (age 71)

You really are a piker, Black Sea.

Svigor said...

Was the 70's an eccentric period of "beauty"?

BIG TIME. Kristy McNichol anyone?

Sailer's law: "no one may champion diversity unless it is to announce he is giving his position(s) to the "less privileged".

I'm all over it! (Forgive my modifications, but since we're here on the ground floor...).

Tennison said...

Margot Kidder was not remotely an attractive woman. But then neither was Deborah Harry, who once was topped only by FF as a poster queen. And as the previous poster says, neither was Kristy McNichol.

Anonymous said...

Both Deborah Harry and Margot Kidder hagged-out at an early age (before 35). Probably had something to do with skin collagen density and female hormone levels.

Fred said...

Deborah Harry was hot in the early 80s, but she was already in her thirties by then.

Anonymous said...

What really burns me up about Kirn's reasoning is the suggestion that we need to practice affirmative action in universities because some of the people you'll let in might someday reach the top of their professions, like Sotomayor. BUT WAIT ONE GOSH-DARNED MINUTE. She only reached the top of her profession in the first place as a result of affirmative action. The chutzpah of the argument is breathtaking - it's like tilting the playing field until one side scores a record number of goals, and then exclaiming how wonderful it was that you tilted the playing field or you would never have discovered this record-breaking soccer team!

Rain And said...

"This is the guy who married a famous actress and model's 19-year-old daughter????"

You left out the part where she dumped him for a hunky firefighter.

Roger Chaillet said...

Forgot about my own Princeton story.

Attended a parochial high school in suburban Maryland. My graduating class consisted largely of whites and a good number of blacks from Washington, D.C. and the suburbs.

One of my black classmates was "Jeff." He was an only child. His mother was a homemaker; his father was an officer in the Air Force. Jeff was a good student and ranked in the top 10% of the class.

Jeff got accepted to Princeton. He had pretty good grades - probably an A-/B+ average - but I'm not sure of his SATs.

I go away to university. Freshman year Christmas break I return home. Get together with classmates over the break. We catch up on things and chat about those who couldn't make the mini reunion. Someone asked about Jeff, and the response was "he's struggling."

Jeff should never have been accepted to Princeton much less attended the university. He simply wasn't Princeton material. He was a good student with good grades from a good high school. But he wasn't Princeton material.

But the difference between him and Sonia S?

At least he was university material.

Sonia belonged in remedial classes at the local junior college.

Anonymous said...

Once a woman hits 30, the curtain descends.

Black Sea said...

Anon:

From Kirn's "Lost in the Meritocracy":

"On the bus ride down to St. Paul [Minnesota]to take the test that will help determine who will get ahead in life, who will stay put, and who will fall behind, two of my closest buddies seal their fates by opening pint bottles of cherry schnapps the moment we leave the high school parking lot."


"If my buddies from Minnesota could see me now, they wouldn't have a clue whom they were seeing, and I—also bewildered—wouldn't be able to help them. Four years ago my SAT scores set me on a trajectory."


From an interview with Kirn:

"1.Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?

I grew up in a couple of tiny towns along the St. Croix River in Minnesota, towns so small that the summer tornado sirens were practically the only entertainment other than waiting each evening to see the fireflies. From there I went to Princeton . . . "

From an interview with Kirn in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

"I went east for school and work. When I rebounded west, I overshot the mark," Kirn said in a phone interview from Livingston, Mont."

From Kirkus Reviews:

"From the moment he aced the SAT at his rural Minnesota high school (he doesn't reveal his score), the author's fate, like those of his fellow overachievers, was sealed. "

From the Barnes and Noble Review:

"Kirn grew up in the country's midsection, and elements of a bildungsroman darken the Minnesota landscape as he recalls the difficulties of being the smart kid in intellect-dismissing, arugula-absent, low-NPR-penetration markets."

From another book review:

"Growing up in rural Minnesota, the ambitious Kirn concentrated on filling his college application with extracurricular activities and impressive class rankings so that he might escape his modest upbringing."

Evidently, Kirn seems to think that he attended high school in Minnesota. Perhaps you can set him straight.

Anonymous said...

Like Michelle Obama and Sotomayor, Kirn probably thought he was God's intellectual gift to mankind before he jumped from his small pond in MT to a transfer school to Princeton.

All three entered Princeton knowing that they would not have been accepted if not for affirmative action of some sort. Their struggles at Princeton probably only enlarged this chip on their shoulders.

I propose all beneficiaries of AA like race or legacy admits be forced to minor in a hard science or math/physics. At least then they could be partially disabused of the increasingly socially-destructive fantasies they carry into their professional lives that there are no objective standards and any differences in ability or outcome are due primarily to white male racism, sexism, genderism, specism, earthism, or x-isms.

Anonymous said...

If the firefighter that Kirn's wife dumped him for had been black instead of white would Kirn have less of a grudge?

Anonymous said...

Was the 70's an eccentric period of "beauty"?

As a lad growing up in the 70s I would have to say - yes!

From my pov things improved a lot in the late 79s after punk, the girls started looking sharper - this is probably a generational thing though. If I were ten years older (or younger) my answer would probably be different.

Anonymous said...

So, the guys fudging his biography. Or perhaps his parents were separated and he split his time between schools in McCleod and Shafer. It's immaterial because on the human development index, these two towns are about equal.

The NMS record is fairly compelling that he spent some time in a MT high school. Why would he fib about this? Go figure.

Anonymous said...

If the firefighter that Kirn's wife dumped him for had been black instead of white would Kirn have less of a grudge?

No, but he would had to have pretended not to mind.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree on the Debbie Harry issue, I think she held her looks very well.

Even now she could still lay a claim to MILF territory.

Or maybe I'm just some sort of pervert?

Anonymous said...

I'm a contemporary of Kirn's at Princeton, though I didn't know him. Two conjectures:

First, the real story is not that Walter Kirn got good SATs and goofed off at Princeton. The real story is that Kirn got good SATs, goofed off at Princeton, and still managed to effortlessly toss off a gutsy and brilliant thesis (and go on to a successful career as a writer).

Contrast to, say, Michelle Robinson, who got lousy SATs, worked hard at Princeton, and ... produced a pretty lousy thesis. And she went on to a career suitable for a driven but untalented mind.

Isn't that pretty much the definition of aptitude, to do good work without working hard?

Doesn't this completely undermine Kirn's NYT argument? Doesn't Kirn's own life story (and Robinson's) show that aptitude testing actually worked quite well? It predicted big things for him and despite slacking off he accomplished pretty big things (for a poet). It predicted less for Robinson and despite working hard, she achieved less (her charismatic husband aside).

Ragged Tiger

Anonymous said...

Second, Kirn's parents are smart and, through no exertion of his own, he turned out smart. He's been able to goof off and still toss off great work. What Kirn is really feeling is guilt at his own high aptitude, especially in a field like creative writing where it's easier to excel while being a fuck-up.

Kirn is displacing his unacceptable feelings of aptitude-guilt into acceptable feelings of white-guilt.

Ragged Tiger

Black Sea said...

Anon:

All I know about Kirn's biography is what he represents about himself in his writing and his interviews. If he is lying about or misrepresenting or eliding something as central to his own biography as where he grew up, then he's probably doing the same about other aspects of his life as well. Even if he split time between Montana and Minnesota as a high school student, this information is hardly incidental to his story in "Lost in the Meritocracy."

Again, if he actually grew up in or attended school in Montana, but never makes reference to this, then you may have the beginnings of an interesting expose, because he's probably lied about -- or misrepresented --a lot of other things as well.

Anonymous said...

A thesis prize for fourteen pages of doggerel? That should tell you that outside of the engineering and hard science majors Princeton undergraduate education is probably not all that intellectually substantive. Kirn appears to have been a marginally gifted student who got some breaks -- perhaps his academic advisers found him extremely likable, as so many midwesterners are.

But many more students like Kirn get rejected than accepted by places like Princeton and Harvard.

Toadal said...

Actually, the fact that Sonia Sotomayor later graduated from Princeton with highest academic honors and went on to reach the upper echelons of her chosen career likely indicates Princeton's and Yale's faculty's leftist cuckoldry. Their willingness to sacrifice academic standards has led to our current academic environment of intellectual dishonesty and ethnic-gender warfare David Thompson ably describes. The last twenty years has seen most talented white males either denied academic positions or tenure or ...through an obsequious and ingratiating personality... become treacherous domesticated Oms
Walter Kirm.

Truth said...

"Even now she could still lay a claim to MILF territory.

Or maybe I'm just some sort of pervert?"

I vote "B".

Anonymous said...

From the quotes folks are posting, Kirn gives the impression of being a self absorbed little tick. And his prose sounds incredibly unremarkable. For his own good he should have hung around some kick ass physicists and engineers at Princeton who could teach him a little humility and cosmic wonder.
Instead, he forever seems to be stuck marveling at his modest achievements in comparison to the hayseeds he grew up with. Arrested development, no?

Kirn's literary output will some day soon end up remaindered in the dumpsters behind Barnes and Nobles or moldering in the basement of Moe's Books on Telegraph Ave.

I just checked on all his novels in the UC system library. There appear to be copies at UC San Diego, UC Santa Cruz, UC Los Angeles, UC Riverside, UC Davis UC Santa Barbara, and UC Berkeley.

Circulation status of all copies: not checked out.

Bwa, bwa, bwa, bwa, bwaaaaa!

Anonymous said...

From the National Merit Scholarship directory.

Can we get a link to this?

Anonymous said...

I hate to wade into the fairly pointless discussion of whether Kirn went to school in MN or MT, but I do note that the McLeod thing may be confusing people because father and son share the same name.

Walter N. Kirn Jr, Princeton '60, the chemist & patent attorney father, currently lives in McLeod, MT.

Walter N. Kirn III, Princeton '83, the writer son, currently lives in Livingston, MT, and moved to MT c. 1993.

Ex-father-in-law Thomas McGuane lives in Livingston, too. Hmm.

Also, um, as near as I can tell, McLeod MT has no high school, only a K-8 that currently enrolls seven kids. Sorry, but Montana Truthers need to come up with something better.

(By the way, hooray for Kirn's father, who got a serious degree and a serious job, and who had a kid at an early age, presumably around 23. May the god of eugenics bless him.)

Reg Cæsar said...

Minnesota, Montana, who cares? I'm just amazed that a kid born in this country in 1962 was given the name Walter.

Wally Joyner was born the same year, but he's "Wallace". Both Joyner and Kirn are or were Mormons, so maybe that explains the anachronistic names.

If my wife were awake, she'd probably supply a colorful opinion, her own or others', on the pretentiously named Marine-on-St-Croix, having grown up in the rural Packer proletariat just across the river.

Anonymous said...

"Also, um, as near as I can tell, McLeod MT has no high school, only a K-8 that currently enrolls seven kids. "

Currently, or in 1980? A lot of towns in MT, Neb., and WY have been losing population steadily over the past few decades. There's a regional high school within commuting distance: Sweet Grass County High School, 16 mi away, 41 minute commute.
Great Schools rating: 8.
Student Body: 94% white.

It's just a detail. But obviously Kirn had low regard for his mother. So if his parents were separated, he'd probably try to be with his father. In McCleod.

Reg Cæsar said...

Well, thanks to that latest Anonymous, who put the answer on base while I was preoccupied in the on-deck circle. Little Walter is a "trey", like Bill Gates.

But even Dad is a little young for a Walter. A 1984 article bemoaned that poor Walter Mondale, ten years older, was hobbled with an old man's name, while his elderly opponent was blessed with the bright young "Ronald".

My mother was stuck with her own mother's name, the heyday of which was in her grandmother's day, the 1890s. Hence she has a fierce hatred thereof, and will not even let us spell it out on her tombstone.

I wonder if Walter III had similar issues. Or maybe he likes being taken for an older man.

Anonymous said...

So apparently the downside of marrying a much younger woman is that she divorces you after a while. Hmmm...I may have to rethink my life strategy. :)

Anonymous said...

hooray for Kirn's father, who got a serious degree and a serious job, and who had a kid at an early age, presumably around 23. May the god of eugenics bless him.

Unfortunately they blessed him with a SWPL toady...

Anonymous said...

It really had to hurt Kirn that his ex-wife is banging a white firefighter. Prolly twitched every time he saw the Ricci case mentioned in the news.

Anonymous said...

From my pov things improved a lot in the late 79s after punk, the girls started looking sharper - this is probably a generational thing though.




No question that in the MTV age looks became vital for all singers and especially women, while singing ability was downgraded in importance. So I think it's real and not a generational thing.

Anonymous said...

Just as an aside no doubt of little interest to anyone, Tom McGuane was Jimmy Buffett's brother-in-law (married JB's sister) and had many "Wild Times" with Jimmy and friends in Key West (where "Ninety-Two in the Shade" is situated). JB and friends (including Hemingway and daughters) also spent time in Montana when KW got too warm.

Peter A said...

"The last twenty years has seen most talented white males either denied academic positions or tenure or"

or getting high paying jobs in the media, legal or finance industries. For this reason I really have a hard time squaring all the whining about the evils of AA with the reality. We've shunted minorities aside into figure head positions to create the illusion of equality. Blacks and Latinos have arguably less real political power in the US than they did in the 1970s. In the 1970s Obama would have been considered a beyond the pale Uncle Tom, now he's a black hero. That tells you something about how far right this country has traveled over the last 30 years.

Stinson Sam said...

Wolfram Alpha offers a neat spread whenever a recognizable first name is typed in: it will tell you the frequency of births so named in the US and the age distribution of people so named.

Some names are surprising in their drastic changes in slope. ('Gary' was unknown as a first name before Gary Cooper, but 'Cary' was common.) Some are surprising in their lack of drastic changes (contrary to supposition,'Marilyn' did not immediately cease after 8/5/1962, when Marilyn Monroe died).

Another factor is the Roman Catholic Church puts the thumb on parents to make the first or middle name that of a canonized saint. So certain names get recycled far beyond the normal pattern, and some combinations of names are as well. (Any male with a middle initial of X. is almost certainly a Xavier, and if he's Francis X. it's certain.) Some Protestant churches really like John Wesley, John Calvin or John Knox too. And of course, some Mennonite families have a long tradition-by-community of making the firstborn male a Menno.

Names of characters in that volume called by Mark Twain "chloroform in print" (there's no cloroform in there, but there is an Ether) signify a family in the Church popularly called by the book's name. "Alma" in particular is a common Spanish female name, but in a male it's from the Alma, a male, in that book. Ditto Ether, Mosiah, Moroni, etc.

It's the out of place names that are fascinating. John Piña Craven, James Jesus Angleton, etc. The prevalence of russian first anmes in Latin America, inspired by communist political activity there, is a useful metric too.