While driving home Monday afternoon, I heard an interview on NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ that was so compelling to me that I had to seek it out later in the evening and listen to it (I had to make a couple of stops on the way home, so missed parts of it). It intrigued me so much that, on Tuesday, I sent a link to the story to a couple of friends I thought might be interested–and, I listened to it again. And her I am, several days after that, sharing it with you.
It’s a 40-minute interview with author, Walter Kirn. Now, I’ve not heard of him before, but he’s got at least two novels out, he’s done pieces for various magazines, but he’s pushing a new non-fiction book, Blood Will Out. The book is about Kirn’s ten year friendship with a man he believed was Clark Rockefeller–yes, of that Rockefeller family. It turns out that, before he was Clark Rockefeller, Kirn’s friend was Christopher Chichester, a British aristocrat of some sort who told friends he had an Aunt Elizabeth and family in Windsor. And somewhere around that time, he murdered one, maybe two, people.
What’s most fascinating to me about the interview is not the kooky stories Kirn relates about his experiences with the eccentric millionaire he knew as Clark Rockefeller (and there are quite a few of those); instead, I’m interested in how a smart, Princeton-educated guy like Kirn got completely taken in by a total sham, how Rockefeller dropped enough truth in with his outrageous lies that you would never call him out for bullshitting you.
Not only do we have a need to tell stories, it seems we have a need to believe them, too.
Give it a listen, it can be found here.
Wow! That's fascinating. I can see me being taken in – I've got a great big gullible side that wants to believe everyone. My hubby has a much better bullshit meter so I tend to trust his judgment 🙂
Will give it a listen. And, yeah, on one level being a good liar is part of the art of storytelling.
I'll have to listen to that interview. The guy murdered some people? Yikes. That made me wonder if Kirn had been in any danger.
I watch true crime and serial killer documentaries all the time and immediately recognized Chichester's name. Scam artists are good at what they do. I think "Six Degrees of Separation" was based on a true story and that guy fooled lots of people. 😉
-Jemi–the thing is, it's not just gullible people who got taken in. I read an article about 'Rockefeller' from Vanity Fair, I think, and several people said, "Yeah, I knew it was bullshit right away"; maybe some did, but I suspect that's hindsight and pride talking.
-L.G., Nice to see you again. Indeed, it is, isn't it?
-Donna, Kirn addresses that in the interview. It's quite possible he was, though 'Rockefeller' wasn't exactly leaving behind a trail of bodies. Kirn pointed out that we're all in danger, every day. Cheery, huh?
-Lexa–When I told my wife about this story, she thought of "Six Degrees" immediately. We watched it last night, and you can definitely recognize some of the techniques used by 'Rockefeller' demonstrated inteh movie.
This sounds like something I should share with my creative nonfiction class. 🙂 I'll have to give it a little when I'm not supposed to be studying, it sounds really interesting!
Beware–I found myself checking out all kinds of stuff after hearing this thing, including a ten page Vanity Fair article. Fascinating stuff!