Walter Kirn

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Walter Kirn
Walter Kirn on The Virtual Memories Show.jpg
Kirn on March 1, 2015
Walter Norris Kirn

(1962-08-03) August 3, 1962 (age 61)
Education Princeton University (AB)
Oxford University
  • Novelist
  • literary critic
  • essayist
Notable work Up in the Air
Spouse(s)Penelope Locke (divorced)
Maggie McGuane (divorced)
Amanda Fortini

Walter Norris Kirn (born August 3, 1962) [1] is an American novelist, literary critic, and essayist. He is the author of eight books, most notably Up in the Air , which was made into a film of the same name starring George Clooney.



Kirn graduated with an A.B. in English from Princeton University in 1983 after completing a 22-page-long senior thesis entitled "Entangling Breaths (Poems)." [2] Following that, he obtained a second undergraduate degree in English Literature at Oxford University, where he was a Keasbey Memorial Foundation Scholar. [3]


Kirn has published a collection of short stories and several novels. These include Thumbsucker (1999), which was made into a 2005 film featuring Keanu Reeves and Vince Vaughn. Kirn's 2001 novel, Up in the Air , has been characterized as a literary chronotope relating to the genre of road narratives. [4] It was made into a 2009 film directed by Jason Reitman. The film adaptation of Up In The Air, which starred George Clooney and Anna Kendrick, was a commercial success and went on to receive critical acclaim as well as numerous nominations and awards.

In 2005, Kirn took over blogger Andrew Sullivan's publication while Sullivan was on vacation. He also wrote The Unbinding, an Internet-only novel that was published in Slate magazine. [5]

Kirn's 2013 memoir Blood Will Out , is an account of his relationship with the convicted murderer and imposter Christian Gerhartsreiter, who had initially approached Kirn using the alias of "Clark Rockefeller".

He has also reviewed books for New York Magazine and has written for The New York Times Book Review, New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Atlantic and Spy, and is a contributing editor of Time , where he has received popularity for his entertaining and sometimes humorous first-person essays among other articles of interest. He also served as an American cultural correspondent for the BBC.

In 2023, Kirn and David Samuels launched County Highway, a magazine about America in the form of a nineteenth-century newspaper, and as America's only newspaper. Donald Rosenfeld is the publisher.


In addition to teaching nonfiction writing at the University of Montana, Kirn was the 2008–09 Vare Nonfiction Writer in Residence at the University of Chicago. [6]


Kirn appears on the weekly podcast, America This Week with Matt Taibbi. He is a weekly regular panelist on Gutfeld! .

Personal life

Kirn was born in Akron, Ohio, but grew up in Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota. After high school, he attended Macalester College for one year before transferring to Princeton University. [7] Kirn's family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was twelve, but Kirn is no longer affiliated with the church. [8] In 1995, Kirn married Maggie McGuane, daughter of actress Margot Kidder and novelist Thomas McGuane. Kirn was 32 at the time; McGuane was 19. [9] The couple had two children but have since divorced. [10] Kirn is now married to magazine writer Amanda Fortini. The two split their time between Livingston, Montana and Las Vegas, Nevada.




Short fiction collections

  • My Hard Bargain: Stories (1990) [11]



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  1. "Walter Kirn". Mormon Literature Database. Brigham Young University. c. 2003. Retrieved June 30, 2010.
  2. Kirn, Walter Norris (1983). "Entangling Breaths (Poems)".{{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. "Walter Kirn" . Retrieved 2014-11-22.
  4. Hansen, Julie. "Space, time, and plane travel in Walter Kirn's novel up in the air." Nordic Journal of English Studies, vol. 11, no. 3, Sept. 2012, pp. 18+
  5. "The Unbinding: An exclusive Slate novel. By Walter Kim". Slate. 13 March 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-22.
  6. Coming This Fall: Walter Kirn
  7. Kirn, Walter (2005-01-05). "Lost in the Meritocracy". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2014-07-20.
  8. NPR: Writer Walter Kirn, on a 'Mission to America'
  9. Brozan, Nadine (1995-08-16). "Chronicle". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-27.
  10. - Walter Kirn Author, "Lost in the Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overachiever"]
  11. Kirn, Walter (1990). My Hard Bargain: Stories. New York: Knopf.