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Posts Tagged ‘Heyday’

Author Kurt Andersen discusses TRUE BELIEVERS on CBS This Morning

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Andersen_True Believers “This is Andersen’s best book to date, which makes it a great American novel.” — Jon Robin Baitz, Vanity Fair

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.

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Watch Kurt Andersen discussing True Believers on CBS This Morning.

Discussion Questions for TRUE BELIEVERS by Kurt Andersen

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Andersen_True Believers“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

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.

Discussion Questions and Topics for Discussion

1.  The epigraph of True Believers contains the following lines from Wordsworth: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven,” which encapsulate the sentiments of empowerment and enthusiasm driving idealistic supporters at the dawn of the French Revolution. How does Karen’s own Vietnam-era experience — one distinguished by a widespread dissatisfaction and social unrest among youth — mirror the emotions fueling these words?

2.  The blurring of fiction and reality is a major theme throughout the novel, both in terms of how the characters define themselves and how they interpret the world around them. Karen makes an interesting point that the emergence of modern entertainment and its obsession with turning events of the recent past into salable media commodities created a phenomenon in which “the people who lived through the events were tricked into believing they had experienced the fictions and docudramas.” In what ways has this manipulation and glamorization of the facts influenced the characters and period that Andersen explores? How does this continue to be an issue today?

3.  Alex, Chuck and Karen’s infatuation with the works of Ian Fleming led them to believe that the extreme and outrageous happenings in the world of government and at large meant that life was imitating — and even anticipating — art. Do you think this made it easier for them to justify their own extreme behaviors, perhaps by creating a dissociation between the severity of their actions and a world they began to see as phantasmagorical?

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