I've been thinking about this entry since last night, when I made a surprising discovery: most New Yorker bloggers have a grudge against Adam Gopnik.
Initiating incident: James Wolcott (left), "the reigning monarch of the literary put-down," delivers a maiming review of Gopnik's "Through the Children's Gate," his collection of essays about New York.
"Finally," caws Gawker. "The Adam Gopnik takedown we've all been waiting for."
Here are Gopnik's primary flaws, in Wolcott's view. He
- was put on this earth to annoy;
- is a careerist with delicate antennae who wants to be encouraged, petted, praised, promoted, and congratulated;
- is forever soliciting the reader's approval with an array of cloying ploys that become gimmicky and self-conscious;
- and his friends are yuppie triumphalists who take pride and pleasure in their exalted taste buds and their little geniuses reflecting flatteringly on their own achievements.
Okay, fine: fratricide among the New York literati can't be new. But the shocking part was the response of bloggers, the ostensible fans: Yeah, he had it coming.
Hate, always quick to respond, finds one lonely dad sticking up for Gopnik. The others? Some avert their eyes. Most lap it up.
Emdashes: "Wolcott makes an omelette with some familiar eggs."It all seems a touch cruel to me. I haven't read "Children's Gate," but I loved one of its pieces that ended up in the magazine, "Death of a Goldfish," Gopnik's rumination on meaning and existence. Wolcott claims to hear tinned laughter behind this, the essay's opening passage.
Penguins: "This is hilarious."
The Elegant Variation: "Lord, James Wolcott entertains us."
Biffles: "Gopnik filters the entire world through his upper-middle-class colored preciousness."
Jewcy: "Why is there a market for Gopnik's extravagant whimsicality?"
Gall and Gumption: "Gopnik manages somehow to distill experience down to pure vanity."
"When our five-year-old daughter Olivia's goldfish, Bluie, died the other week, we were confronted with a crisis larger, or at least more intricate, than is entirely usual upon the death of a pet. Bluie's life and his passing came to involve so many larger elements—including the problem of consciousness and the plotline of Hitchcock's Vertigo—that it left us all bleary-eyed and a little shaken.More to come on this. Did he really have it coming?
"Let's try this," Martha said. "Let's tell her that, though Bluie did die, this Bluie [a replacement fish, a ringer for the original] is kind of Bluie reborn.
"I thought she might have something, and in the next fifteen minutes, we did a quick, instinctive tour of the world's religions. We made up a risen-from-the-grave Christian story: the Passion of the Bluie. We considered a Buddhist story: Bluie goes round and round. We even played with a Jewish story: Bluie couldn't be kept alive by the doctors, but what a lovely bowl he left for his family!"