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TRUE BELIEVERS by Kurt Andersen


by Kurt Andersen

Pub Date: July 10th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6720-6
Publisher: Random House

A deliberately paced look back at the tumultuous 1960s, that era of free love, beads and bombs.

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 Now, having withdrawn her candidacy for the U.S. Supreme Court, she’s embarked upon writing a memoir that’s bound to upset more than one apple cart.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.

Those who remember the ’60s, at least from one side of the culture wars, will like this yarn.