The Soul of New York City
Kurt Andersen, host of Studio 360 on NPR, is a journalist and the author of the novels Hey Day, Turn of the Century, The Real Thing, and his latest non-fiction book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History. 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 Inside.com, 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.
Kurt Andersen: I think having grown up in Omaha – specifically Nebraska, the Midwest – has shaped me quite a bit. I think going from Omaha essentially to the east – and New York, specifically – made me feel a little bit like a permanent outsider. If not an outsider, at least somebody who could see the strangeness, and magnificence, and ugliness and of New York with a certain amount of awe that hasn’t quite left me.
I think also there is a cliché – but like most clichés a true one – that there’s this thing in the Midwest which amounts to a kind of enforced humility. Sometimes a mock humility, but the nevertheless a sense of you shouldn’t toot your own horn too much. And I think that has stuck with me.
And then of course the particulars of my parents and my family background entirely apart from the Midwest – or Omaha particularly – has had a dramatic influence on my life.
Recorded On: July 5, 2007
An Omahan humility gives Andersen a different perspective on the city.
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