The Fall of the Iconic Writer

Kurt Andersen, host of Studio 360 on NPR, is a journalist and the author of the novels Hey Day, Turn of the Century, and The Real Thing. He has written and produced prime-time network television programs and pilots for NBC and ABC, and co-authored Loose Lips, an off-Broadway theatrical revue that had long runs in New York and Los Angeles. He is a regular columnist for New York Magazine, and contributes frequently to Vanity Fair. He is also a founder of Very Short List. 

Andersen began his career in journalism at NBC's Today program and at Time, where he was an award-winning writer on politics and criminal justice and for eight years the magazine's architecture and design critic. Returning to Time in 1993 as editor-at-large, he wrote a weekly column on culture. And from 1996 through 1999 he was a staff writer and columnist for The New Yorker. He was a co-founder of, editorial director of Colors magazine, and editor-in-chief of both New York and Spy magazines, the latter of which he also co-founded.

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).  In 2008 Forbes. com named him one of The 25 Most Influential Liberals in the U.S. Media.Anderson graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, and is a member of the boards of trustees of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Pratt Institute, and is currently Visionary in Residence at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He lives with his family in New York City.

  • Transcript


Question: Can novelists today be both celebrated and subversive?

Kurt Andersen: Well, first of all, there is the problem of novelists being all that celebrated in America if they're very serious as a novelist. I'm not -- well, it's an interesting question. I think, as I read about in the introduction to this novel, I think the job category of voice of a generation or voice of a nation spokesperson and a household name novelists no longer exists. Subversiveness is a different issue but I think that probably makes it even harder. I think that to be extremely well known, sell a lot books, well regarded as a novelist, all those things are difficult and subversiveness in this day and age makes it even more difficult, I suppose. I guess you could say that Normal Mailer, on a certain level, for instance, was a subversive novelist, but I think the audience for subversiveness is a niche audience at this point in America. 

Recorded on: October 13, 2009