Walter Kirn

National Correspondent

On family road trips, when I was a bad boy, my father would sometimes threaten to stop the car and make me get out and walk. Eventually, since the gambit never worked, he moved to the next level, pulling over on the shoulder one day and forcing me, with strong language, to climb out. Then he pretended to drive away. The first time he did this, he didn’t go far—only twenty or thirty yards. It scared me. I ran after the car, but just that once.


All summer I've been manacled to my desk writing a book about a former friend of mine, the impostor and convicted killer known to the world and the media as Clark Rockefeller. For almost ten years, between 1998 and 2008, when he kidnapped his noncustodial daughter and was unmasked as a German national, Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, and a suspect in a gruesome cold-case murder dating back to 1985, I took "Clark" at face value—his own inflated face value.


Having learned over the last few years that one must try to ride out, for sanity's sake, the all-consuming stimulus-reponse cycles fostered by 24-hour media, I gave myself an entire weekend to suppress, set aside, and generally forget about the Anthony Weiner pubic selfies that dominated the news last week.


Born in the ***

Ever since Edward Snowden plugged his thumb drive into the USB port of global consciousness, I've been monitoring myself and others for signs of incipient paranoia. I detected a few almost immediately. While emailing with another journalist about the case of Michael Hastings, the reporter who died in a fiery L.A.


Cinema of the Unknown Soldier

How war movies got small

From The Dirty Dozen to Zero Dark Thirty: How war movies got small.


Getting Over It

Just last Friday, walking down the street, I saw a handmade sign above a dumpster warning passersby not to deposit their trash there. "Smile. You're on camera," said the sign. A few minutes later, reading on my phone, I came across a comment on a story about the NSA that quoted a computer firm executive as telling a crowd at a lecture he was giving, "You have no privacy. Get over it." Then, about twenty minutes after that, I went to send an e-mail on my computer and a little window popped up informing me that Safari, my Web browser, wanted "to access" my stored personal information.


The Newspeak dictionary is filling up. As of the last few days, it has acquired an Obama entry, "Modest Encroachment," meaning a tactful invasion of privacy, a James Clapper entry, "Least Untruthful Answer," meaning a tactful lie, and a David Brooks entry, "Unmediated Man," meaning, basically, a lonely truth teller who isn't concerned with tact. The appearance of these tortured formulations is as good a measure as any of Edward Snowden's cultural impact.


The Marriageable Men of Princeton

Invincible, a little bit drunk, and officially endorsed by a Princeton mom

Princeton Man on the prowl.


Oscar Grouch

I’d like to thank the Academy for nothing

The novel he'd written had become a movie that was nominated for an Oscar. But that didn't mean he'd have an open ticket to the party.


What Gun Owners Really Want

I’ve owned six guns. I’ve drawn them on bad guys. I want to be understood.

My father's Iver Johnson .410 shotgun, which he promised would be mine soon, leaned on its stock in a closet off the kitchen filled with other guns and camping gear. The shotgun was given to him by my granddad, who'd bought it at an Ohio sporting goods store in the early 1950s. It was a squirrel gun that took only one shell and had to be manually cocked to fire; my father said it would teach me to shoot safely. I was months away from turning 15 and felt that a gun was the proper acknowledgment of oncoming adulthood.