Walter Kirn, golden contact

In today’s New York Times Magazine, critic and novelist Walter Kirn uses his family’s conversion to Mormonism as a hook for his (dare I say stale) riff on Christianity as pop culture:

“I remember my own family’s Great Awakening back in the Jesus-haunted 1970’s, when President Carter was advertising his piety and ”Godspell” and ”Up With People” were packing concert halls. In the same way that it does now, three decades later, religion seemed to be everywhere back then — except in our house. We were secular suburbanites, prone to all of the usual middle-class miseries, and when one of us felt particularly low, we called a doctor, not a priest. But then one day two missionaries came knocking, and everything changed. They were Mormons, two crewcut, fresh-faced boys weighed down with books that they promised would save our souls — souls that we weren’t even certain we possessed. Reading the books enlightened us, however; we converted to Mormonism a few months later. And it worked — for a time. The diffuse domestic gloom that had mysteriously settled on our home suddenly lifted. We let the sunshine in.”

Here’s the full article.

7 comments for “Walter Kirn, golden contact

  1. I’m not sure I want to rehash the discussions that have taken place on LDS-themed email lists and message boards regarding Kirn’s connection (or lack thereof) to Mormonism, but here’s quick rundown (feel free to correct me if I’m forgetting something):

    Most people assume that Kirn’s conversion to Mormonism is fictionalized in “Mormon Eden,” which appeared in The New Yorker in 1997. A review of the story can be found here:

    The same youth-trip experience appeared in one of Kirn’s novels, Thumbsucker:

    There’s an interesting interview with Kirn and an excerpt from Thumbsucker at Random House’s Bold Type site:

    For what it’s worth…

  2. I Kirn still a practising Mormon? I have heard rumors to the contrary. Would those in the know please let us know?

  3. Jordan – this is ronin from Ann Arbor, mi. Alas I am neither the Oxford Ronin, nor the John Hopkins U Ronin you allude to. Sorry.

  4. All the Kirn articles seem to play off stories of someone who was LDS for a time, but got over it.

    Anyone have any other information? I note that others have asked this same question, and haven’t seen an answer, but I’m curious too.

  5. Wow-! I did not even realize there was a Ronin in Ann Arbor (where I am too…)

    I have another acquaintance named Ronin who I met elsewhere.

  6. I don’t have a source readily available, but everything I’ve read by Kirn (and about him) strongly suggests that he no longer considers himself a member of the Church.

    His essays and stories that deal with Mormonism (at least the ones I’ve read) get a lot of the nuances wrong. Specifically, his religious vocabulary strikes me as coming from an outsider to the faith. Of course, there is the possibility that Kirn uses such markers intentionally, but the more logical explanation is that he was “active” for only a short time.

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