In this episode of The Archive Project, famed New Yorker columnist Adam Gopnik discusses the fundamentals of civilization (hint: wine + caffeine); what it’s like to live with teens (hint: perplexing); the lingo of texting; the whimsy of history forty-years removed; how “every mouth taste becomes a moral taste”; sort of jobs vs. jobs, sort of; and his time spent as an employee (sort of) of the Museum of Modern Art.
Because if you think about it, we all live in that ambiguity, don’t we? We all live in that twilight zone. Because if you think of it, there are very few moments, very few relationships in life, where saying ‘I’m laughing out loud in your presence’ and saying ‘I love you a lot’ don’t really mean the same thing.”
“The thing about long marriages is that you have the same argument over and over and over. One good argument lasts a lifetime in a marriage, and the key to having a good long marriage is finding that argument early and never letting it go.”
“Just as magicians learn that the most obvious moves impress people, big talkers learn that anything committed to memory and recited with emotion in an age when nothing is committed to memory will impress people even more than something intelligent freshly said.”
Adam Gopnik was born in Philadelphia and raised in Montreal, where both of his parents taught at McGill University. The family lived in Habitat 67, the housing complex regarded by many as one of Montreal’s architectural landmarks. Gopnik received a BA in Art History from McGill and an MFA from New York University. He was pursuing a PhD on Picasso’s caricatures when he dropped out of the program—a decision he claims made him the “black sheep” of his studious family.
Gopnik is best known for his work at The New Yorker, where he has written about Mark Twain, hockey, dogs, Icelandic coffee, Babar, snowflakes, magicians, the Jets, the Dreyffus affair, and spirituality, among other things. He served as the magazine’s art critic from 1987 to 1995 before moving to Paris with his family and contributing to the magazine’s “Paris Journal.” The French newspaper Le Monde praised him as a “witty and Voltairean commentator on French life.” His essays were expanded and published in his best-selling book, Paris to the Moon (2000). After a five-year stint in France, Gopnik and his family returned to New York and he began publishing about life in the city. This led to his second collection, Through the Children’s Gate, which includes the essays “Bumping Into Mr. Ravioli,” about his daughter’s imaginary friend who is always too busy to play with her, and “Last of the Metrozoids,” about the life of his friend, Kirk Varnedoe.
Gopnik has won the National Magazine Award three times, as well as the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting and the Canadian National Magazine Award. In a profile at Gopnik’s Massey Lecture in Canada, David Baird wrote, “Gopnik is an aesthete, but unlike many of his fellow students of fifteenth-century Italian painting, he is not an elitist; he is an aesthete of ordinary and intimate pleasures.”