Book Review: "Lost in the Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overachiever" by Walter Kirn


Posted on January 1, 1970 by Blake Leath

For the last two nights, this 211-pages-page-turner absolutely possessed me.  The [not-long-but] short of it is this: after four years at Princeton, and just prior to attending Oxford on scholarship, author Walter Kirn gets pneumonia while visiting his parents.  Late one night he notices, for practically the first time, a few classics in his mother’s bookshelves.  From The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to Great Expectations, he becomes engrossed and reads them, really reads them, for the first time in his life.

Setting his pretenses down – the ones he honed to enter and survive Princeton – he says, in the final lines of Lost, “And so, belatedly, haltingly, accidentally, and quite implausibly and incredibly, it began at last: my education.  I wanted [for the first time in my inauthentic life] to find out what others thought.”