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.
About Kurt Andersen
Kurt Andersen is the author of the novels Heyday and Turn of the Century, among other books. He writes for television, film, and the stage, contributes to Vanity Fair, and hosts the public radio program Studio 360. He has previously been a columnist for New York, The New Yorker, and Time, editor in chief of New York, and co-founder of Spy. He lives in Brooklyn.
Karen Hollander, 64 years old and counting, has been working very hard for the last four decades, immersed in social issues and legal battles. Now, having withdrawn her candidacy for the U.S. Supreme Court, she’s embarked upon writing a memoir that’s bound to upset more than one apple cart. Step one, the reader being tougher at vetting than any Senate committee, she needs to establish her credentials: “I am a reliable narrator. Unusually reliable. Trust me.” Any survivor of the ’60s will tell you that anyone who begs to be trusted is probably a narc, but not Karen, who is “old enough to forgo the self-protective fibs and lies but still young enough to get the memoir nailed down before the memories begin disintegrating.” It would spoil Studio 360 host Andersen’s (Turn of the Century, 1999, etc.) fun to give too much away, but suffice it to say that Karen is about to tell some tales out of school that involve intelligence agencies, plots to kill prominent politicians and other hijinks that definitively do not befit peace-and-love types. Naturally, there are people from the time who do not wish her to reveal such things, and so the plot thickens—as indeed it must, given Karen’s lifelong love of James Bond. (“The world must be crawling with make-believe secret agents,” she thinks.) Andersen’s tone is smart and sometimes rueful: “During high school,” he has Karen recall, “we never discussed and weren’t even quite aware of the straddle we were attempting, studying hard and participating in extracurriculars even while we reimagined ourselves as existential renegades driven by contempt for conventional ambition and hypocrisy.” The grown-up attitude suits the novel, which lacks the exuberance of Andersen’s Heyday (2007), a tale of the revolutionary year of 1848. Neither is it reserved, though. About its only flaw is its title, which, absent the plural marker, already belongs to a 1989 film about, yes, a ’60s survivor and lawyer battling for truth and justice, all a little too close for comfort. – Kirkus Reviews
Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself - ‘True Believers,’ by Kurt Andersen
The New York Times Book Review – July 5, 2012 (Excerpt)
I was glad to be immersed in Kurt Andersen’s “True Believers” when I happened to watch, on a television news show, an upsetting segment about school systems around the country deciding that elementary-grade students are reading way too much fiction. Why shouldn’t they multitask and get practical “hard” information along with their phonetics? Goodbye, Curious George, farewell Amelia Bedelia! Hello solar system and the social organization of the ant farm!
Andersen’s “True Believers” is, among other things, a novel about the powerful influence literature can exert on life. Its main characters are convinced they’d have turned out very differently if not for the fiction they read when they were young. For the narrator, Karen Hollander, and for Alex Macallister and Chuck Levy, the two friends she grows up with in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, this formative education is delivered by James Bond.
Over the years, I’ve heard several people I respect (my husband among them) thank Ian Fleming for having forged one of their earliest links between pleasure and reading. But for Andersen’s characters, the Fleming novels are a lot more than entertainment. Starting in the summer after sixth grade, the three friends follow Bond’s adventures the way fundamentalists study holy texts — for an explanation of how the world works and a code to live by. [Read the full article...]
A Personal, Serious Game of Catch-Up
The New York Times Book Review – July 11, 2012 (Excerpt)
What would a young left-wing radical from the 1960s think of the 21st century? Kurt Andersen poses that question in “True Believers,” his fact-packed new book about the differences between the eras. In his opinion, a time-traveling radical might think the revolution had succeeded: no more draft, ecology taken seriously, Communist China on the rise, women in the work force, old guys with marijuana listening to rock music in sneakers and jeans. And instead of scarcity, too much information at any hour of night or day.
But that same time traveler would find familiar sounds — with the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan still playing music in their 70s — and familiar politics. “Armageddon and apocalypse were right around the corner in the late ’60s, and they’re right around the corner now,” Mr. Andersen writes. “Now as then, true believers loathe the moderates in their midst.”
In other words, “Been there, done that” wasn’t a familiar catchphrase in the ’60s. But a kid who zipped from then to now would know exactly what it means. [Read the full article...]
Kurt Andersen’s ‘True Believers’
The Washington Post Book Review – July 10, 2012 (Excerpt)
If you were too square to enjoy the ’60s or too stoned to remember them, Kurt Andersen has published a big, swinging novel you’ll want to check out. Here in the promiscuous pages of “True Believers” is what it felt like to scream at LBJ and throw M-80s at the ROTC building and harass the Dow Chemical rep. It doesn’t matter that Andersen is a few years younger than these hip characters. He brings the same archival enthusiasm to the Age of Aquarius that he brought to 1848 in his previous novel, “Heyday.” The result is a rambling, colorful story full of witty and pretentious insights, as lovable and self-indulgent as the flower children deserve.
“True Believers” is all about coming clean and revealing the past — a theme Andersen announces so loudly that it would blow the speakers at Woodstock. “Instead of chickening out, allowing the shock and scandal to bloom posthumously,” says our rabidly confessional narrator, “I decided I want to be alive when the truth comes out.” She’s a 64-year-old public intellectual named Karen Hollaender, who runs a prestigious law school, writes bestsellers and pops up on TV as “one of the most accomplished leaders and thinkers of our times.” Everyone thinks they know everything about her — she was on the shortlist to fill a spot on the Supreme Court — but she has been clutching one shocking secret for decades: “I once set out to commit a spectacular murder,” she says in the second paragraph, “and people died.” And more will die if she publishes her memoir! [Read the full article...]
THE BLEEDING HILLS A Novel by Wilfried F. Voss
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith. - 2 Timothy iv. 7
The Irish War is officially a part of history, but not for Finnean Whelan, an IRA veteran of almost 40 years. British Intelligence has produced evidence that he is the mastermind behind a conspiracy to assassinate the First Minister of Northern Ireland. For Whelan this is not only a mission of revenge, but marks the beginning of a journey into the past and the return to the one true love: Ireland. [More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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