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In this captivating double life, Adam Gopnik searches for the men behind the icons of emancipation and evolution. Born by cosmic coincidence on the same day in 1809 and separated by an ocean, Lincoln and Darwin coauthored our sense of history and our understanding of man's place in the world. Here Gopnik reveals these two men as they really were: family men and social climbers, ambitious manipulators and courageous adventurers, grieving parents and brilliant scholars. Above all we see them as thinkers and writers, making and witnessing the great changes in thought that mark truly modern times.
Edited by The New Yorker's much-loved Adam Gopnik, this year's Best American Essays continues the laudable tradition of collecting the finest essays, "judiciously selected from countless publications" (Chicago Tribune), ensuring that the 2008 edition is another "kick-ass anthology" (Booklist).Contributors include Albert Goldbarth, Anthony Lane, Louis Menand, Ander Monson, and others.
Departures is Paul Zweig's celebration of life and love. Zweig thought of himself as a sojourner, a contemporary Wandering Jew, a man with "a loose wire in his genes." He led a number of distinct lives: as a Jewish child in Brooklyn and on a farm in the Catskills; as a literature student at Columbia; as a young exile who spent a decade in Paris transforming himself into a French intellectual, absorbing the language, sex, culture, and leftist politics; and as an American man-of-letters who produced a steady stream of poems, essays, and wide-ranging works of literary scholarship and criticism. In 1978, at the age of forty-three, he abruptly entered a new life--"the life of the dying"--which he inhabited for the next six years. His writing was guided by a steely determination to hold the more pressing and distorting sentiments-- self-pity, regret, anger, fear--at bay for the sake of his lucidity, which became his way through the world of cancer. This memoir stands as a testament to the passion and spirit with which Zweig lived and to the dignity that he brought to his final years.
Sensational, dramatic, packed with rich excitement and filled with the sweep and violence of human passions, LES MISERABLES is not only superb adventure but a powerful social document. The story of how the convict Jean-Valjean struggled to escape his past and reaffirm his humanity, in a world brutalized by poverty and ignorance, became the gospel of the poor and the oppressed.
Paris. The name alone conjures images of chestnut-lined boulevards, sidewalk cafés, breathtaking façades around every corner--in short, an exquisite romanticism that has captured the American imagination for as long as there have been Americans. In 1995, Adam Gopnik, his wife, and their infant son left the familiar comforts and hassles of New York City for the urbane glamour of the City of Light. Gopnik is a long-time New Yorker writer, and the magazine has sent its writers to Paris for decades--but his was above all a personal pilgrimage to the place that had for so long been the undisputed capital of everything cultural and beautiful. It was also the opportunity to raise a child who would know what it was to romp in the Luxembourg Gardens, to enjoy a croque monsieur in a Left Bank café--a child (and perhaps a father, too) who would have a grasp of that Parisian sense of style we Americans find so elusive. So, in the grand tradition of the American abroad, Gopnik walked the paths of the Tuileries, enjoyed philosophical discussions at his local bistro, wrote as violet twilight fell on the arrondissements. Of course, as readers of Gopnik's beloved and award-winning "Paris Journals" in The New Yorker know, there was also the matter of raising a child and carrying on with day-to-day, not-so-fabled life. Evenings with French intellectuals preceded middle-of-the-night baby feedings; afternoons were filled with trips to the Musée d'Orsay and pinball games; weekday leftovers were eaten while three-star chefs debated a "culinary crisis." As Gopnik describes in this funny and tender book, the dual processes of navigating a foreign city and becoming a parent are not completely dissimilar journeys--both hold new routines, new languages, a new set of rules by which everyday life is lived. With singular wit and insight, Gopnik weaves the magical with the mundane in a wholly delightful, often hilarious look at what it was to be an American family man in Paris at the end of the twentieth century. "We went to Paris for a sentimental re-education--I did anyway--even though the sentiments we were instructed in were not the ones we were expecting to learn, which I believe is why they call it an education."
Never before have we cared so much about food. It preoccupies our popular culture, our fantasies, and even our moralizing--"You still eat meat?" With our top chefs as deities and finest restaurants as places of pilgrimage, we have made food the stuff of secular seeking and transcendence, finding heaven in a mouthful. But have we come any closer to discovering the true meaning of food in our lives? With inimitable charm and learning, Adam Gopnik takes us on a beguiling journey in search of that meaning as he charts America's recent and rapid evolution from commendably aware eaters to manic, compulsive gastronomes. It is a journey that begins in eighteenth-century France--the birthplace of our modern tastes (and, by no coincidence, of the restaurant)--and carries us to the kitchens of the White House, the molecular meccas of Barcelona, and beyond. To understand why so many of us apparently live to eat, Gopnik delves into the most burning questions of our time, including: Should a Manhattanite bother to find chicken killed in the Bronx? Is a great vintage really any better than a good bottle of wine? And: Why does dessert matter so much? Throughout, he reminds us of a time-honored truth often lost amid our newfound gastronomic pieties and certitudes: What goes on the table has never mattered as much to our lives as what goes on around the table--the scene of families, friends, lovers coming together, or breaking apart; conversation across the simplest or grandest board. This, ultimately, is who we are. Following in the footsteps of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Adam Gopnik gently satirizes the entire human comedy of the comestible as he surveys the wide world of taste that we have lately made our home. The Table Comes First is the delightful beginning of a new conversation about the way we eat now.
Following the best-selling Paris to the Moon,the continuation of the Gopniks' adventures against the panorama of a different though no less storied city as they attempt to make a new home for themselves. Autumn 2000: After five years in Paris, Adam Gopnik moves his family back to a New York that seems, at first, safer and shinier than ever. Here in the wondrously strange "neighborhood" of Manhattan we observe the triumphs and travails of father, mother, son, and daughter; and of the teachers, coaches, therapists, adversaries, and friends who round out the extended urban family. From Bluie, a goldfish fated to meet a Hitchcockian end, to Charlie Ravioli, an imaginary playmate who, being a New Yorker, is too busy to play, the Gopniks' new home is under the spell of the sort of characters only the city's unique civilization of childhood could produce. Not long after their return, the fabric of living will be rent by the events of 9/11, but like a magic garment will reweave itself, reviving normalcy in a world where Jewish jokes mingle with debates about the problem of consciousness, the price of real estate, and the meaning of modern art. Along the way, the impermanence and transcendence of life will be embodied in the person of a beloved teacher and coach who, even facing death, radiates a distinctively local light. Written with Gopnik's signature mix of mind and heart, elegant and exultantly alert to the minute miracles that bring a place to life, Through the Children's Gate is a chronicle, by turns tender and hilarious, of a family taking root in the unlikeliest patch of earth.
The inimitable Nancy Mitford's account of Voltaire's fifteen-year relationship with the Marquise du Châtelet--the renowned mathematician who introduced Isaac Newton's revolutionary new physics to France--is a spirited romp in the company of two extraordinary individuals as well as an erudite and gossipy guide to French high society during the Enlightenment. Mitford's story is as delicious as it is complicated. The marquise was in love with another mathematician, Maupertuis, while she had an unexpected rival for Voltaire's affections in the future Frederick the Great of Prussia (and later in the philosophe's own niece). There was, at least, no jealous husband to contend with: the Marquis du Châtelet, Mitford assures us, behaved perfectly. The beau monde of Paris was, however, distraught at the idea of the lovers' brilliant conversation going to waste on the windswept hills of Champagne, site of the Château de Cirey, where experimental laboratories, a darkroom, and a library of more than twenty-one thousand volumes enabled them to pursue their amours philosophiques. From time to time the threat of impending arrest would send Voltaire scurrying across the border into Holland, but his irrepressible charm--and the interventions of powerful friends--always made it possible for him resume his studies with the cherished marquise.
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