Books: Lost in the Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overachiever
Why I am recommending this book:
Because it is a stunningly truthful memoir that, anyone who has ever struggled with wanting to belong, will be able to relate to.
As a high school student in the 1970s, Walter Kirn knew the deal: He would win contests, prizes and plaques; and, in return, he would get the job, the girl and entree into elite social circles. In his hilarious memoir, "Lost in the Meritocracy," Kirn recounts the many ways that the American educational rat race betrayed him. He ends up miserable at Princeton, bullied by his rich roommates and ashamed of his Minnesota upbringing. He majors in English because it sounds like something he already knows and applies for a Rhodes scholarship while high on speed. "Learning was secondary, promotion was primary," he writes. "No one ever told me what the point was, except to keep on accumulating points, and this struck me as sufficient. What else was there?" The collegiate Kirn considers himself "an expert social bird-watcher" and, in an effort to find his niche, mimics such Princeton species as the sailors, the drama kids and the coke-heads. But his attempts fall flat. When he tries to fit in with the sailors, he washes and tumble-dries his deck shoes until they look sufficiently worn, but they end up shrinking and giving him blisters. Kirn throws spit wads at his Ivy League education, but with six works of fiction to his name as well as regular bylines in prestigious publications, perhaps he was well served by the meritocracy after all.