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.
His new novel True Believers is about an attorney, Karen Hollander, who withdraws her name as a Supreme Court candidate and confesses to participation in a 1960s radical plot.
From his Q & A about True Believers, with Joel Stein for TIME magazine:
Had you read a lot of Ian Fleming novels, like your characters? You don’t strike me as a James Bond guy.Learn about Kurt Andersen’s 5 favorite ’60s books.
That’s correct. I had not read a single one until I decided to write this book. Then I read about half of them. I was a pretty big junior spy guy, however: Man from U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, The Prisoner, Secret Agent. I tried eavesdropping on my neighbors and buying miniature cameras.
I heard your nickname in high school was Explodo.
It was a family nickname at age 11 or 12, because I was a pyromaniac. I once took an interstate bus from Nebraska to Missouri just so I could buy fireworks.
Did that make you feel connected to this character?
In the liking-secret-cameras-and keeping-dossiers-and-pretending-I-was-a-spy in an 11- or 12-year-old way, sure. I never made the transition that Karen and her friends made to becoming a fight-the-power radical. Because I was a wussy. And because I was born after her. The big ’60s radicals actually were born before, in the ’40s or late ’30s.
Were you thinking of any real-life people for Karen?
No. After I was done and people would ask, “What’s your book about?” and I’d give the 10-word description, they’d say “Oh, like Bernardine Dohrn.” I’d say, “No, exactly not like a Bernardine Dohrn.” Not one of these super-committed lifelong radical fugitives. I started realizing that the thing to say is it’s...[read on]