KURT ANDERSEN is a writer.
He’s the author of the novels Heyday and Turn of the Century. Heyday was a New York Times bestseller that the Los Angeles Times called "a major work." The New York Times Book Review said there is "something moving, a stirring spirit, in the energy of its amazement." And the Chicago Sun-Times (and nine other papers) said it "deserves instant acceptance into the ranks [of] Thomas Berger's Little Big Man, E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime, [and] Gore Vidal's Lincoln." It was included on several best-books-of-the-year lists, including the New York Public Library's, and won the Langum Prize as the best American historical novel of 2007. The New York Times called Turn of the Century "wickedly satirical" and "outrageously funny" and one of its Notable Books of the year, while The Wall Street Journal called it a "smart, funny and excruciatingly deft portrait of our age." It was a national bestseller. He is now at work on a new novel.
Last year he published Reset, an "influential" (Huffington Post), "heavyweight" (USA Today) and "inspired and inspiring" (BoingBoing) essay about how America might change for the better coming out of the economic and financial crises of 2008 and 2009.
He has also written for film, television and the stage. He has written screenplays for Walt Disney Pictures and Village Roadshow. Currently, GreeneStreet Films is developing Turn of the Century as a film, for which he is serving as an executive producer. He is also developing a series for HBO. During the 1990s he was executive producer and head writer of two prime-time specials for NBC, How to Be Famous and Hit List, starring Jerry Seinfeld and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and a creator of three pilots for ABC and NBC. He was co-author of Loose Lips, a satirical off-Broadway revue that had long runs in New York and Los Angeles starring Bebe Neuwirth, Harry Shearer and Andy Richter. He has also written the books for musicals under development for Broadway.
From 2004 through 2008 he wrote a column called "The Imperial City" for New York (one of which is included in The Best American Magazine Writing 2008), and contributes to Vanity Fair(where piece of his won a 2009 Deadline Club Award). He was previously a columnist for The New Yorker ("The Culture Industry") and Time ("Spectator"). He began his career in journalism at Time, where during the 1980s he was an award-winning writer on politics and criminal justice before becoming, for eight years, the magazine’s architecture and design critic.
He is also host and co-creator of Studio 360, the Peabody Award-winning cultural magazine show produced by Public Radio International and WNYC and broadcast on 140 stations to 500,000 listeners each week. From 2001 through 2004 he served as a creative consultant to Universal Television, co-creating the Trio channel and helping to shape Universal's cable programming.
As an editor, he co-founded the transformative independent magazine Spy, which was nominated for two National Magazine Awards, and increased its circulation almost tenfold and became profitable after just three years. He also served as editor-in-chief of New York during the mid-90s, presiding over its editorial reinvigoration and record profitability. In 1999 he co-founded Inside, an online and print publication covering the media and entertainment industries, and in 2004 and 2005 he oversaw a relaunch of Colors magazine. In 2006 he co-founded Very Short List, an online service for cultural connoisseurs who would probably never call themselves "connoisseurs." And he is editor-at-large for Random House, responsible for finding, conceiving, and overseeing non-fiction books.
At the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in 2004, he curated an exhibit called “Faster, Cheaper, Newer, More: Revolutions of 1848." He has since joined the board of trustees of the Cooper-Hewitt, and also serves on the board of the Pratt Institute. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, where he was an editor of the Lampoon. He received an honorary doctorate from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2005, and in 2009 was Visionary in Residence at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. New Yorkmagazine named him one of the 100 People Who Changed New York. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Anne Kreamer, and his daughters Kate and Lucy.
Random House, 2012
In True Believers, Kurt Andersen—the New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed author of Heyday and Turn of the Century—delivers his most powerful and moving novel yet. Dazzling in its wit and effervescent insight, this kaleidoscopic tour de force of cultural observation and seductive storytelling alternates between the present and the 1960s—and indelibly captures the enduring impact of that time on the ways we live now.
Karen Hollander is a celebrated attorney who recently removed herself from consideration for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Her reasons have their roots in 1968—an episode she's managed to keep secret for more than forty years. Now, with the imminent publication of her memoir, she's about to let the world in on that shocking secret—as soon as she can track down the answers to a few crucial last questions.
As junior-high-school kids back in the early sixties, Karen and her two best friends, Chuck and Alex, roamed suburban Chicago on their bikes looking for intrigue and excitement. Inspired by the exotic romance of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, they acted out elaborate spy missions pitting themselves against imaginary Cold War villains. As friendship carries them through childhood and on to college—in a polarized late-sixties America riven by war and race as well as sex, drugs, and rock and roll—the bad guys cease to be the creatures of make-believe. Caught up in the fervor of that extraordinary and uncanny time, they find themselves swept into a dangerous new game with the highest possible stakes.
Today, only a handful of people are left who know what happened. As Karen reconstructs the past and reconciles the girl she was then with the woman she is now, finally sharing pieces of her secret past with her national-security-cowboy boyfriend and Occupy-activist granddaughter, the power of memory and history and luck become clear. A resonant coming-of-age story and a thrilling political mystery, True Believers is Kurt Andersen's most ambitious novel to date, introducing a brilliant, funny, and irresistible new heroine to contemporary fiction.
How This Crisis Can Restore our Values and Renew America
by Kurt Andersen and Tom Brokaw
“This is the end of the world as we’ve known it,” Kurt Andersen writes in Reset. “But it isn’t the end of the world.” In this smart and refreshingly hopeful book, Andersen–a brilliant analyst and synthesizer of historical and cultural trends, as well as a bestselling novelist and host of public radio’s Studio 360–shows us why the current economic crisis is actually a moment of great opportunity to get ourselves and our nation back on track.
Historically, America has always shifted between wild, exuberant speculation and steady, sober hard work, as well as back and forth between economic booms and busts, and between right and left politically. This is one of the rare moments when all these cycles shift dramatically and simultaneously–a moment when complacency ends, ossified structures loosen up, and enormous positive change is possible.
The shock to the system can enable each of us to rethink certain habits and focus more on the things that make us authentically happy. The present flux can enable us as a society to consolidate the enormous gains of the last several decades in areas such as technology, crime prevention, women’s and civil rights, and the democratization of the planet. We can reap the fruits of a revival of realism and pragmatism at home and abroad. As we enter a new era of post-party-line common sense, we can start to reinvent hopelessly broken systems–in health care, education, climate change, and more–and rediscover some of the old-fashioned American values of which we’ve lost sight.
In Reset, Andersen explains how we’ve done it before and why we are about to do it again–and better than ever.
The Real Thing
Bison Books, 2008
You may already know that Belgium is the most boring country on planet Earth, but do you know why? Or what makes the Mark 44, Model O Lazy Dog Missile Cluster, the sexiest piece of military hardware on wheels? Or how LSD edged out all contenders as the Platonic Ideal of illicit drugs?
From cities to sitcoms, from scotch to soda, from English monarchs to French movies, The Real Thing is a compendium of the quintessential, providing definitive answers to some of the most compelling questions of our time: What confection out-cholesterols the competition? Why is The Country Club the country club? Which Charlie Chan proved the least scrutable?
Author Kurt Andersen’s pithy pronouncements sparkle with wit, sophistication, and a healthy dose of skeptical good humor as he strips world culture of accumulated hype and accepted wisdom, laying bare the sine qua nons and the ne plus ultras in a sassy series of satirical essays that give credit where credit is due while simultaneously foreclosing on the bogus, the ersatz, the would-be, and the has-been.The Real Thing is the real thing. These days, that’s really something.
Random House, 2007
Heyday is a brilliantly imagined, wildly entertaining tale of America’s boisterous coming of age–a sweeping panorama of madcap rebellion and overnight fortunes, palaces and brothels, murder and revenge–as well as the story of a handful of unforgettable characters discovering the nature of freedom, loyalty, friendship, and true love.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, modern life is being born: the mind-boggling marvels of photography, the telegraph, and railroads; a flood of show business spectacles and newspapers; rampant sex and drugs and drink (and moral crusades against all three); Wall Street awash with money; and giddy utopian visions everywhere. Then, during a single amazing month at the beginning of 1848, history lurches: America wins its war of manifest destiny against Mexico, gold is discovered in northern California, and revolutions sweep across Europe–sending one eager English gentleman off on an epic transatlantic adventure. . . .
Amid the tumult, aristocratic Benjamin Knowles impulsively abandons the Old World to reinvent himself in New York, where he finds himself embraced by three restless young Americans: Timothy Skaggs, muckraking journalist, daguerreotypist, pleasure-seeker, stargazer; the fireman Duff Lucking, a sweet but dangerously damaged veteran of the Mexican War; and Duff’s dazzling sister Polly Lucking, a strong-minded, free thinking actress (and discreet part-time prostitute) with whom Ben falls hopelessly in love.
Beckoned by the frontier, new beginnings, and the prospects of the California Gold Rush, all four set out on a transcontinental race west–relentlessly tracked, unbeknownst to them, by a cold-blooded killer bent on revenge.
A fresh, impeccable portrait of an era startlingly reminiscent of our own times, Heyday is by turns tragic and funny and sublime, filled with bona fide heroes and lost souls, visionaries (Walt Whitman, Charles Darwin, Alexis de Tocqueville) and monsters, expanding horizons and narrow escapes. It is also an affecting story of four people passionately chasing their American dreams at a time when America herself was still being dreamed up–an enthralling, old-fashioned yarn interwoven with a bracingly modern novel of ideas.
The Funny Years
by Kurt Anderson, Graydon Carter, and Geirge Kalogerakis
Just in time for the 20th anniversary of Spy's creation comes the definitive anthology, inside story, and scrapbook. Spy: The Funny Years will remind the magazine's million readers why they loved and depended on Spy, and bring to a new generation the jewels of its reporting and writing, photography, illustration, design, and world-class mischief-making. It will demonstrate Spy's singular niche in American magazine and cultural history. But mainly it is intended to be enjoyed on its own: one beautiful, comprehensive volume containing Spy's funniest and most creative work, along with the ultimate insiders account of how it all came to be.
All the best of it is here: Separated at Birth?, Naked City, The Fine Print, Log-Rolling in Our Time, the Blurb-o-Mat, those hilarious (and now ubiquitous) charts, the inside stories on the New York Times and Hollywood by J.J. Hunsecker and Celia Brady, the covers, investigative features, and the hilarious stories on pretty much everyone who was anyone during the late '80s and early '90s. Not to mention the often grisly but always entertaining regular cast of characters from Spy's pages -- the churlish dwarf billionaires, beaver-faced moguls, bull-whip-wielding uber-agents, knobby-kneed socialites and, of course, short-fingered vulgarians.
During its heyday, from 1986 through 1993, Spy broke important ground in journalism and design, defining smartness for its generation. It was a once-in-a-lifetime creation that shaped the zeitgeist and succeeded (for a while) against all odds. Spy: The Funny Years will be the fun, stylish, hilarious holiday gift of the year.
Turn of the Century
Random House, 1999
As big and exciting as the next century, this is a novel of real life at our giddy, feverish, topsy-turvy edge of the millennium. Turn of the Century is a good old-fashioned novel about the day after tomorrow—an uproarious, exquisitely observed panorama of our world as the twentieth century morphs into the twenty-first, transforming family, marriage, and friendship and propelled by the supercharged global businesses and new technologies that make everyone's lives shake and spin a little faster.
As the year 2000 progresses, George Mactier and Lizzie Zimbalist, ten years married, are caught up in the whirl of their centrifugally accelerating lives. George is a TV producer for the upstart network MBC, launching a truly and weirdly ground-breaking new show that blurs the line between fact and fiction. Lizzie is a software entrepreneur dealing with the breakneck pleasures and pains of running her own company in an industry where the rules are rewritten daily. Rocketing between Los Angeles and Seattle, with occasional stopovers at home in Manhattan for tag-team parenting of their three children, George and Lizzie are the kind of businesspeople who, growing up in the sixties and seventies, never dreamed they would end up in business. They're too busy to spend the money that's rolling in, and too smart not to feel ambivalent about their crazed, high-gloss existences, but nothing seems to slow the roller-coaster momentum of their intersecting lives and careers.
However, after Lizzie, recovering from a Microsoft deal gone awry, becomes a confidante and adviser to George's boss, billionaire media mogul Harold Mose, the couple discovers that no amount of sophisticated spin can obscure basic instincts: envy, greed, suspicion, sexual temptation—and, maybe, love. When they and their children are finally drawn into a thrilling, high-tech corporate hoax that sends Wall Street reeling (and makes one person very, very rich), George and Lizzie can only marvel at life's oversized surprises and hold on for dear life.
Like Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities, Kurt Andersen's Turn of the Century lays bare the follies of our age with laser-beam precision, creating memorable characters and dissecting the ways we think, speak, and navigate this new era of extreme capitalism and mind-boggling technology. Entertaining, imaginative, knowing, and wise, Turn of the Century is a richly plotted comedy of manners about the way we live now.
SELECTED REVIEWS FOR
"This is Andersen's best book to date, which makes it a great American novel." — Jon Robin Baitz, Vanity Fair
"A big, swinging novel you'll want to check out."—The Washington Post
"Fascinating and wisely observant..."— O! The Oprah Magazine
"Fiendishly smart, insightful and joyously loopy novel." —The San Francisco Chronicle
"Andersen creates spellbinding suspense. This is an ambitious and remarkable novel, wonderfully voiced, about memory, secrets, guilt, and the dangers of certitude. Moreover, it asks essential questions about what it means to be an American and, in a sense, what it means to be America. " —Booklist, starred review
"Kurt Andersen's best yet. The man is operating on some far-out level that bends time and space to his will. True Believers hits all the right notes and reads like a goddamn dream." — Gary Shteyngart
"This witty, imaginative novel is one part bildungsroman, one part political thriller and one part contemplation on age — and in all aspects wonderful reading." —Scott Turow
Brain Pickings calls it one of the two "essential" summer-of-2012 novels
"An unmitigated success...plot is nigh-on perfect."—The Winnipeg Free Press
SELECTED REVIEWS FOR
The malaises of today's life -- exacerbated by the current financial crisis and recession -- are the subject of this brief essay by novelist and radio host Kurt Andersen. Pointing out what went wrong, and how we can press the "reset" button to reboot our ideals and politics, Andersen mildly rants against greed and infantilism, and gives suggestions for improving ourselves and our world by rising from the ashes of the recently burst bubbles. Andersen reads his own book in a conversational tone, much as he does on his radio shows, lending an intimate nature to this book. Unlike many author-narrated books, Reset blends words and voice perfectly, with ideal pacing and tone, to make this a very enjoyable read.
-- K.M. © AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine
SELECTED REVIEWS FOR
The Real Thing
“As if Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett weren’t enough in the way of humor, the state of Nebraska has now given us Kurt Andersen. As his debut in adult public life -- unless you happen to count being an editor of the Harvard Lampoon part of adult public life -- Mr. Andersen has written The Real Thing. . . . It can be very witty, as well as a number of other things.”
-- Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, New York Times
SELECTED REVIEWS FOR
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This historical novel may surprise readers who know Kurt Andersen as the cofounder of Spy magazine and the author of the wise and acerbic Turn of the Century (1999). It's set in the mid–19th century, for one thing, and not—at least not ostensibly—about media or celebrity. Benjamin Knowles is a young Englishman infatuated with all things American, including and especially the part-time actress/part-time prostitute Polly Lucking, whom he meets on his first passage to New York. Just as Knowles and Polly are about to go public with their love, Knowles does that boy-thing—i.e., says something stupid—and she flees New York.
It's worth getting through the slowish beginning to arrive at the delightful, intelligent last two-thirds of this long novel when Knowles teams up with Polly's damaged brother, Duff, and family friend, Timothy Scaggs, a journalist of sorts, in a trek west in search of the freethinking Ms. Lucking, with a murderer just behind them (it's a subplot). Andersen's second novel is more than just a love story or a history lesson (though there are details included that make it clear how much research Andersen did); it's a true novel of ideas. The group visits a 19th-century health farm/cult, for example. The occasional historical figure—e.g., Charles Darwin—makes an appearance as well. There are shades of T.C. Boyle's The Road to Wellville, as well as aspirations toward E.L. Doctorow. But in the end, this second novel belongs to Andersen, a tale of bright, rambunctious, aspiring young people. Like them, the book is rowdy, knowing—and wholly American.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kurt Andersen is best known for his previous novel (the irreverent, postmillennial Turn of the Century), his role as cofounder and editor of the now-defunct Spy magazine, and as host of public radio's Studio 360. Heyday, Andersen's second novel, recalls the work of Gore Vidal, T. C. Boyle, Thomas Mallon, and even Charles Dickens. Critics agree that while the author's vision is grand and his execution ambitious, Knowles's adventures too often get bogged down in the minutiae of the period at the expense of storytelling (Janet Maslin deems the effect "compulsive pedantry"). Fans of books that set forth Big Ideas (Heyday very much differs from Turn of the Century) will revel along with Andersen, who clearly enjoys what he's doing here as he celebrates the tumultuous energy and the careless optimism of an America on the move.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
In 1848, young English aristocrat Benjamin Knowles, inspired by the regime change he witnessed in France, immigrates to America in search of "vulgarity and strangeness," enlightened attitudes, and democracy in action. He finds them all in Manhattan's infamous Bowery district. Ben falls in immediately with three misfits: Timothy Skaggs, alcoholic journalist and photographer; Duff Lucking, troubled firefighter and arsonist; and Duff's sister, Polly, actress and part-time hooker. Ben's tumultuous affair with Polly--and the promise of greater freedom--drives the group's journey westward, where California's gold fields await; meanwhile, a crazed French official crosses the ocean to take revenge against Ben. Andersen's satirical wit is well evident, but he plays fair, offering scenarios to offend nearly everyone. In the tradition of the old-fashioned epic, Heyday presents amazing coincidences, lengthy digressions, and myriad descriptions of mores and vices. Although the amount of irrelevant historical detail overwhelms the plot, this overstuffed parody of a Victorian novel makes some serious points: it succeeds in exposing the peculiarities and ridiculousness of nineteenth-century society--and contemporary reverence for it.
-- Sarah Johnson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
"In this utterly engaging novel, the author of Turn of the Century brings 19th-century America vividly to life . . . While this is a long book, it moves quickly, with historical detail that's involving but never a drag on the action; the characters are beautifully drawn. A terrific book; highly recommended."
"Heyday is fuled by manic energy, fanatical research, and a wicked sense of humor.... It's a joyful, wild gallop through a joyful, wild time to be an American."
SELECTED REVIEWS FOR
With equal parts nostalgia and snarkiness, this history /anthology celebrates the now legendary satirical magazine during its heyday—aka 1986 to 1991, when founders and partners Andersen (Turn of the Century and host of [PRI's] Studio 360) and Carter (editor of Vanity Fair) ran the show (the magazine folded as a monthly in 1994). "We were very lucky to catch two waves—the post-'60s ironic mood and the go-go financial mood," observes Andersen, and these pages offer plenty of opportunity to travel back to those heady days of "Separated at Birth?" and "The Spy Guide to Postmodern Everything." Those who wondered what life at Spy was really like will also be rewarded: former deputy editor Kalogerakis [...] has collected plenty of stories about minuscule paychecks, ridiculously tight budgets and bacchanalian parties (Andersen and Carter chime in with extensive annotations). Certain to be on the holiday wish lists of aging hipsters.
-- Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Spy was the most influential magazine of the 1980s. . . it was cruel, brilliant, beautifully written and perfectly designed . . ."
-- Dave Eggers
SELECTED REVIEWS FOR
Turn of the Century
Wall Street Journal
Can a book destined for every beach blanket and nightstand in the Hamptons really be any good? Can a novel that refers to Prada, Ferragamo and Manolo Blahnik be admitted (without at least a period of quarantine) into the nation of literature? And can anyone really have the temerity to believe that American culture at the turn of the century isn't beyond parody? The answer to all these questions appears to be yes, judging by the evidence of Kurt Andersen's elegant and relentless fictional sendup of the way we live now.
The plot defies easy synopsis (there's a reason this novel is 659 pages) but revolves around a delicious conceit…. It's a savagely subversive notion…. Mere synopsis….doesn't begin to convey the pleasures of this smart, funny and excruciatingly deft portrait of our age. The overwhelming wackiness of public life in this country would seem to render satire gratuitous, yet a few novelists remain unintimidated. Tom Wolfe, Martin Amis and Scott Spencer, to name just three, have cut our media-besotted social fabric to ribbons in their fiction, and now Mr. Andersen has stepped up to shred the whole mess into a fine, powdery dust. ("Turn of the Century" invites comparison to "Bonfire of the Vanities," but Mr. Andersen writes with more finesse….) Despite the plague of falseness, people in his book still love and strive and grope for meaning, just as they do in life….."Turn of the Century" offers a thoroughly affecting portrait of a marriage….
I would be hard-pressed to name a novel that does a better job than this one of conveying what it's like to run a business, particularly a modern-day company in which everyone comes to an office and does things on computers. The author's way with such episodes is matched by his wickedly keen observations about almost everything else…
Of course, literary fiction isn't supposed to be about this kind of thing -- about money and power, status and lust, computer security and urban design, as well as love and envy. Mr. Andersen knows this. At one point, when Lizzie and George are getting creamed in the newspapers and their marriage is disintegrating, they meet for a function at their son's school. After tepid greetings, "She gives a minimal one-shouldered shrug, lighting her Marlboro and squinting down the street toward the bright disk of sun behind the clouds. In her twenties, Lizzie gave up reading short stories. Right now she remembers why. They all felt just like this moment." Mr. Andersen shows that, at the turn of the century or any other time, there is much more to life than that.
New York Magazine
The coolest of ironists….Mesmerizing….the Evelyn Waugh of the media class Newsday A convincing portrayal of the rhythms and stresses of a high-powered, two-career marriage…..His eye for cultural detail and social nuance is impressive….This is an artfully plotted and often very funny novel.
-- Michael Wolff
...a sly and scintillating novel about how we live now. It's an expansive, wide-angled satire in the Tom Wolfe manner, though more sharply attuned to contemporary technology and pop culture.
-- Dan Cryer
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Andersen is too smart, too funny, too ingenious, too talented, and haswritten a novel that is just too much fun for other writers to handle….Turn of the Century is more than clever. There is a chilliness that tends to pervade comic novels, especially those written by men (Tom Wolfe, Martin Amis, or their archetype, Evelyn Waugh), a dyspeptic and disdainful eye. Unlike Wolfe…Andersen has true affection for his characters, even the daffy ones. The Mactier children are culturally hot-wired, but they're dutiful children who love each other and their parents. The couple adore each other. Imagine that…. Rare is the book that makes me laugh out loud. Turn of the Century did constantly. Andersen's witty apercus and his protean imagination are dazzling.
The thing fairly hums with…irresistible information. In Andersen's book, the…very funny name dropping goes to work and comes home having bagged something that looks a lot like meaning. Andersen's masterstroke as a comic writer, though, is his positioning of his book five minutes in the future….Andersen has in fact given us a portrait of the way we live now, a portrait scarier and truer than most realist fiction.
The New York Times Book Review
...Kurt Andersen jacks you into the nerve center of the media society and pins your eyelids open until you go nearly blind with overload.
-- Po Bronson
The New York Times
It's a little as if Leopold and Molly Bloom had been slimmed down, hyped up, tuned in and given a year instead of a day to exist. Fortunately, most of the digressions are informative, wickedly satirical or outrageously funny and often all at once.... Andersen has written the most uncliched novel imaginable.
-- Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
...an astonishing doorstop of a debut that deconstructs the 1990s by peering just over the border into the next decade.... the first most promising novelist of the Third Millennium.
-- Benjamin Svetkey
Andersen brilliantly sustains the comic pace throughout the lengthy narrative, though his ultimate message may be disappointing to millennial idealists: The future ain't what it used to be.
Booklist (April 1, 1999)
Random House is putting a considerable publicity push behind this novel by a New Yorkerwriter, and such a stir will, of course, generate requests at the circulation desk. But let librarians be honest in telling readers what they are getting: a novel as bloated as contemporary marketing, which is what it is about. But, then, at least it can be said that Andersen's treatment correlates well with his subject matter. The time is, as one could guess from the title, the year 2000. George and Lizzie are a married couple living in New York; he is a television producer, and she, a computer software executive. The dilemmas, personal and professional, that George and Lizzie confront and cope with--and which threaten to overwhelm them--during the course of the year all reflect, in big, bold ways, how most of us lead our lives these days: at the mercy of too much technology, too much information, and too much time spent on meaningless tasks. Andersen is right in satirizing the manners, morals, and mores of the country as we end a millennium, but there is just too much talk and too much detail about media and computers and entertainment to give this novel a good flow. Still, Andersen certainly has caught the drumbeat of our times, and despite his prolix style, he catches us as we truly are in our attempt to make the best of the society we have wrought.
-- Brad Hooper Copyright© 1999, American Library Association. All rights reserved
If you're not computer-literate and don't read People magazine, you may miss some of the jokes, but will nevertheless probably enjoy this gargantuan (Tom) Wolfeian satire on millennial hucksterism, the first novel from a well-known New Yorker nonfiction writer. It's the story of a high-powered Manhattan post-yuppie couple's mutual and separate rises and falls during the watershed year 2000. He is George MacTier, the TV producer who hit it big with the virtual reality-oriented series NARCS (whose coup episode featured the real arrest of a genuine drug dealer), and is currently developing Real Time, a news show engineered to connect the outside world with its audience's personal lives (network execs having decided that "politics is death among the under-50s''). She is Lizzie Zimbalist, whose thriving computer software company has attracted the interest of Microsoft, which is attempting a buyout. The (increasingly byzantine) details of Lizzie's and George's struggles to stay ahead of the sharks (and not step on each other's feet) in the high-pressure new century are juxtaposed against a generous bonanza of comic near-future concepts and particulars. Lizzie's father becomes a candidate for the first "inter-species transplantation'' (he's to receive a pig's liver). Health-conscious smokers prefer "American Spirit organic cigarettes,'' and kiddies munch on "Endangered Animal Crackers.'' George Stephanopoulos hosts his own show. Michael Milken has become "the richest and most respected criminal in America,'' and Charles Manson's parole hearings are broadcast live. The gags keep coming as Andersen's preposterous plot lurches into dizzying overdrive, bringing Lizzie and George into regretful conflict, and ending with a neat surprise: a bizarre underwater accident seems to have altered Microsoft's plans... it's too good to give away. If Terry Southern had lived to see (or even imagine) the coming century, this is the novel he might have concocted. It's enormously overlong, and neither Al Gore nor Bill Gates will approve. The rest of us, however, will be, as they say, richly entertained.
-- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Big Think Interview with Kurt Andersen
Can novelists today be both celebrated and subversive?
TEDxBrooklyn - Richard Saul Wurman and Kurt Andersen - Part 1
Spurred by the dance between his curiosity and ignorance, Richard Saul Wurman has sought ways to make the complex clear. He has now written, designed and published 82 books on topics ranging from football to health care to city guides, but he likes to say that they all spring from the same place - his ignorance. Described by Fortune magazine as an "intellectual hedonist with a hummingbird mind," Wurman has been shaped by an epiphany he had as a young man: ignorance and embracing the understanding of what it is like to not understand. Wurman created the TED conference in 1984, bringing together many of America's clearest thinkers in the fields of technology, entertainment and design. He continues to co-chair the annual TEDMED meetings.
TEDxBrooklyn - Richard Saul Wurman and Kurt Andersen - Part 2
Other contact information—Kurt's agents, speaker's bureaus, and the like—can be found at his website.