Walter Kirn Is Middle America's Defiant Defender

The Kyle Rittenhouse case reminds Walter Kirn of an incident from his youth in rural Minnesota. “I remember one night, as a Midwestern kid out in the country, sitting with a loaded gun at the top of my stairs,” he says. A violent inmate had escaped from a nearby prison and was hiding in people’s barns. “I was 16,” Mr. Kirn chuckles, “and I sat up with a shotgun, probably somewhat delusional, convinced I could protect our farm.”

Mr. Kirn, 59, is the author of seven books, including the novel “Up in the Air” (2001), which was adapted into a seductive and successful movie. Already a writer of some repute when the film was released in 2009, Mr. Kirn reached a “different order of fame” when he became “part of a Hollywood Oscar campaign and attended parties with George Clooney.” These days, he draws most attention as a commentator on America’s political and cultural divides, particularly the one “between city and country—one of the oldest political fissures known to mankind.”


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