Friday, February 09, 2007

it's like a petition.

Written by James Wolcott and signed, with tough-love, by so many of us. "Smugged by Reality," a biting review of Adam Gopnik's Through the Children's Gate in The New Republic.

Do a Google search for Wolcott Gopnik and you'll find a fair number of bloggers and comment-ers who were so tired of Gopnik's kitsch and would ask him to tone it down, just a bit.

At Gawker. The Nation was quick to the punch, though Hansen jabbed lightly.

Most bloggers just link merrily and move on. There's nothing to add, really. Linkers of various stripes:

Roth Brothers, Diary of a Rat, Biffles at the Bijou, Clive Davis, Christopher Hayes, dcat, lowebrow, Rising Hegemon, The Elegant Variation, Penguins on the Equator, Jewcy, gall and gumption, the stood, All Intensive Purposes (notes the Auster, oh yes), Books are my only friends, The Huffington Post, Bruce Feiler, and, tried and true, Madame Emdashes . . .

And how modest and self-effacing is our hero? The groundswell takes Wolcott by surprise, over at his VF blog.

One lonely Dad comes to Gopnik's defense. If you see more, let me know.

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15 Comments:

Anonymous Clive Davis said...

Not sure I belong in that column - I linked to the piece because I liked Gopnik's thoughts on Mr Ravioli!
Cheers,
Clive

2:19 PM  
Blogger zp said...

Hm. Perhaps I'd better create a "Dads in Defense of Gopnik" list. For the record, Madame Librarian, frequently mentioned here, has been telling me about Charlie Ravioli for ages. She's a mom and Ravioli appeals to her too.

5:39 PM  
Blogger Raquel Laneri said...

Thank you for the link, zp. The take down was quite delightful! "Walter Kirn, what a hustler." Indeed.

1:13 AM  
Blogger JJB said...

Wow, I had no idea everyone felt this way. Can't help but feel it's nasty to cheer Wolcott on.

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Emily Gordon said...

Esteemed comrade ZP! I'm always delighted when you link to me. But I've been a little uncomfortable with the assumption that I second every last word of Wolcott's review by virtue of having linked to it. As you know, I do a lot of quick linking without comment, and that's how I see my "omelette and eggs" intro. I revere Wolcott as a critic and like him tremendously as a person, but my opinions about Gopnik and his writing have, thus far, not been shared on my site. (I'm posting this to our new colleague New Yorker Comment too, in case my comments look a little similar!)

9:14 PM  
Blogger zp said...

It's so funny. I didn't really mean for the "us" in the first line to refer directly to the list of links or that the list of links were petition signers. But perhaps that's how it has been read by the comment-ers here?

Actually, your turn of phrase "makes an omelette out of familiar eggs" seemed to imply, for me, that Wolcott attacks an easy target . . . or takes advantage in some way? I was thinking of mentioning this to JJB at New Yorker Comment, since I was sure he read you wrong. Anyway, I heard about the thing at Emdashes first, and I am, as ever, grateful.

And we agree that you merrily link and move on!

I think I may have to amend my post a bit. Is that kosher?

In any case, Gopnik's best defense is his own work. This week's total war thing was sharp and sad and good and not about his kids.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous mzn said...

I still haven't read all of Wolcott or any of the blog reaction but re the last comment, zp: I really like when Gopnik writes about his kids, especially about Luke in Paris. The piece on going swimming at the Ritz is one of my favorites (it's in Paris to the Moon, which is great as an audio book read by the author).

8:42 AM  
Blogger zp said...

Another Father heard from.

9:24 AM  
Blogger JJB said...

So it may not be quite the unified anti-Gopnik front I imagined; let's all rally together in your burgeoning 'Dads' list.

I thought I'd left the redoubtable Emdashes enough wiggle room by placing her in the group of those who 'averted their eyes,' but perhaps that still implies too much a sin of omission.

By the way, I don't recall his comparing Bluie to the Viet Cong... Anyone got an e-copy of that story kicking around?

1:03 PM  
Blogger zp said...

I'll look in my updated Complete New Yorker when I have a moment.

In one of the Gawker comments, someone links to an old VF Wolcott thing on Denby's American Sucker. I might find the whole article of that one too, given time. The excerpted bit I was able to see in the Gawker link had a very sharp story about what it might be like to date Denby.

2:12 PM  
Anonymous Emily Gordon said...

I think it's always OK to amend posts; that's my favorite thing about the internet. I never did like things being fixed in time, and now I get to reverse it, Superman-flying-backward-style, to my heart's content. But mostly I do it with headlines, with which I'm rarely satisfied on the first go-round.

Re: Gopnik and Wolcott--I'm now compromised. If I meet someone in person and they turn out to be likable, it's harder for me to review their work the way I would when safely at home with the galley, slashing away. I think Gopnik is smart, and he can write, especially in the first-person-essay form. I like his book reviews considerably less, and there's no excuse for yuppie crowing in a city/world with so much poverty and despair. That's basically what I think!

As for omelettes, I pictured Wolcott enjoying smashing through the carton of eggs he mentions in the first graf, flinging them in a playful arc like the Swedish Chef. I think I wanted to underscore that Wolcott knows that to make an omelette--to write a review like that--you have to break some eggs, and he doesn't do it halfway; he doesn't mince words or give his subjects undue breaks, which I admire. I'm always striving to get closer to that bravery/ballsiness in my own reviews, but it's not always easy.

1:03 PM  
Blogger zp said...

Having looked, I don't think July 2005 has been updated yet.

9:01 AM  
Blogger zp said...

Via the internet,

"To begin with, Bluie, as his name suggests, was not actually a goldfish. He was a beta, a goldfish-size fish that the people in pet stores encourage you to buy in place of the apparently tetchy and sickly true Asian goldfish. The beta is a handsome fish, with long, sweeping fins. It can be red or black or violet or blue, and it is, at least according to the pet-store people, the Vietcong of pet fish, evolved in rugged isolation in the rice-paddy puddles of Indochina and just about impossible to kill off. The only drawback is that male betas fight with each other, and have to be kept apart. It is not surprising, these days, to see a set of them on a child's dresser in Manhattan, held in separate containers, in a kind of glass-bowl parody of the co-op apartment building that surrounds them, each fish furiously pacing its cubic foot of space and waiting for the other to turn up the stereo."

9:14 AM  
Blogger Madison Guy said...

This was one of the "few bloggy steps" in the following: From Barack Obama to haiku synopsis of Hersh Iran story in just a few bloggy steps. An example of the butterfly effect, otherwise known as sensitive dependence on initial conditions?

2:43 AM  
Blogger zp said...

Note to readers: Like so many things, Madison Guy's butterfly effect links by way of something Pynchonian.

1:33 PM  

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