Gopnik, Adam 1956–
Gopnik, Adam 1956–
Born August 24, 1956, in Philadelphia, PA; son of Irwin (dean of students) and Myrna (a professor of linguistics; maiden name, Shapiro) Gopnik; moved to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1967; married Martha Rebecca Parker (a filmmaker), August 15, 1981; children: Luke, Olivia. Education: McGill University, B.A., 1980; Institute of Fine Arts (New York, NY), M.A. (art history), 1984. Hobbies and other interests: Songwriting, baseball, hockey.
Art historian and critic, editor, and author. Gentleman's Quarterly magazine, New York, NY, parttime fashion copy editor, then fiction editor, 1983–85; Alfred A. Knopf (publishing house), New York, NY, editor, 1985–87; New Yorker, New York, NY, staff writer, art critic, and editor, beginning 1987, co-editor (with Louis Menand) of back-of-book section, 1992–95, correspondent in Paris, 1995–2000. Co-curator of "High and Low" exhibition, Museum of Modern Art, 1990.
Moyse traveling fellow, 1980; National Magazine Award for Essay and Criticism; George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting; National Magazine Award, American Society of Magazine Editors/Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, for columns in the New Yorker.
Voila CarAme, drawings by Jack Huberman, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1980.
(Editor, with Kirk Varnedoe) Modern Art and Popular Culture: Readings in High and Low, Abrams/Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), 1990.
(With Jane Livingston) Evidence, 1944–1994: Richard Avedon, edited by Mary Shanahan, Random House (New York, NY), 1994.
Paris to the Moon, Random House (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Steven A. Nash) Wayne Thiebaud: A Paintings Retrospective, Thames & Hudson (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Peter Turnley) Parisians, photographs by Turnley, Abbeville Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Americans in Paris: A Literary Anthology, Library of America (New York, NY), 2004.
The King in the Window (young-adult novel), Hyperion (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor of numerous articles to New Yorker, including over one hundred "The Talk of the Town" columns, 1987–92.
Work in Progress
Essays on American Masters, including Thomas Eakins; and a novella.
In addition to his work as Paris correspondent for the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik has written several exhibition catalogues and published Paris to the Moon, a collection of his New Yorker essays that Washington Monthly contributor Alexandra Starr cited as "ample ammunition for the argument that Gopnik is one of the finest belle lettrists working today." In addition to his journalism and art criticism, Gopnick began his fiction-writing career in 2005 with the young-adult fantasy novel The King in the Window.
The son of academicians who moved their family from Philadelphia north to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in the mid-1960s, Gopnik grew up with five siblings, four of whom went on to earn doctorates in one field or another. He himself graduated from high school at age fourteen, then attended McGill University, where his parents both worked and where his siblings also did their undergraduate work.
An aficionado of fifteenth-century Italian art, Gopnik enrolled at New York's Institute of Fine Arts following his graduation from McGill, intending to pursue a master's degree. However, his academic pursuits were derailed by a part-time summer job that would change his life. Living in New York, he hired on in the fashion copy department at Gentleman's Quarterly magazine, where one of his primary jobs was to concoct two-word captions for featured items of clothing. Staying on at GQ after the summer was over, he sidestepped an editorial housecleaning and was eventually appointed fiction editor of the magazine's downsized staff. From GQ, he moved to an editorial position at Alfred A. Knopf publishers, which in turn brought him into contact with New Yorker editors. Gopnik had been sending short
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pieces to that magazine for years without a sale; with his new connections he went from selling articles to working on staff at the prestigious magazine.
Drawing on its author's experiences living in Paris with his young son while on assignment for the New Yorker, The King in the Window introduces readers to eleven-year-old Oliver Parker. An American living in Paris with his parents, Oliver finds himself swept into a magical adventure following an Epiphany feast. Mistaken by some local spirits for their lost leader and pitted against the evil Master of Mirrors, the boy soon finds himself battling for no less than the future of the known universe. An unusually precocious child, Oliver is able to look at his dilemma rationally and draw on his knowledge of literature, science, and the highly rational works of Enlightenment philosophers. He also has the help of friends such as can-do American Charlie and French-born Neige, the gardener's daughter, in trying to set the world to rights by the close of Gopnik's multifaceted story.
Comparing Gopnik's novel to similarly themed books such as A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle, School Library Journal contributor Margaret A. Chang described The King in the Window as "ambitious in theme, sophisticated in setting, and cosmic in scope," and featuring "engaging characters" as well as a "lovingly and specifically evoked setting." While Ilene Cooper noted in Booklist that "Gopnik writes beautifully" in describing his settings and characters, the book's storyline is "so filled with twists and turns" that only children versed in French history will be able to "carry on to the finish." In contrast, Library Journal reviewer Barbara Hoffert found the novel to be "as engrossing as it is intellectually stimulating," predicting that thoughtful young readers will "discover an entertaining, intricately plotted adventure story" that could as equally interest adults. Citing the novel's "wit," as well as its many cultural references, a Publishers Weekly contributor dubbed The King in the Window "Harry Potter for the Mensa set."
Comments regarding the intellectual challenges posed by his first novel likely came as no surprise to Gopnik, whose story ultimately pits Instinct against Reason, with Reason coming out victorious. As he told Hoffert for Library Journal, the central theme in the book is "the difference between metaphor and irony, between windows that let you look out into the world and mirrors that only show you the same thing." "I see it as a struggle to get our children to turn away from screens," he added, "and into thinking imaginatively."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, September 15, 2000, Brad Hooper, review of Paris to the Moon, p. 206; October 1, 2001, Whitney Scott, review of Paris to the Moon, p. 343; October 1, 2005, Ilene Cooper, review of The King in the Window, p. 58.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2005, review of The King in the Window, p. 1026.
Library Journal, February 1, 1991, p. 78; September 15, 2000, Brad Hooper, review of Paris to the Moon, p. 206; October 1, 2000, Kathryn Wekselman, review of Wayne Thiebaud: A Paintings Retrospective, p. 90; September 1, 2005, Barbara Hoffert, review of The King in the Window, p. 44.
New Criterion, September, 2004, James Panero, review of Americans in Paris: A Literary Anthology, p. 77.
New Republic, December 24, 1990.
New York Times, October 22, 2000, Alain de Botton, review of Paris to the Moon.
Publishers Weekly, November 2, 1990, p. 60; April 18, 1994, p. 52; April 18, 1994, Thomas Jackson, interview with Adam Gopnik, p. 105; July 31, 2000, review of Wayne Thiebaud, p. 87; September 25, 2000, review of Paris to the Moon, p. 104; September 12, 2005, review of The King in the Window, p. 68.
Saturday Night, February, 1994, pp. 18-20, 53-54.
School Library Journal, November, 2005, Margaret A. Chang, review of The King in the Window, p. 135.
Sewanee Review, fall, 2004, Donald Schier, review of Americans in Paris.
Washington Monthly, October, 2000, Alexandra Starr, review of Paris to the Moon, p. 60.
Washington Post Book Review, October 30, 2005, Elizabeth Ward, review of The King in the Window, p. 58.
Wilson Library Bulletin, February, 1991, p. 135.
French Culture Web site, http://www.info-france-usa.org/culture/ (November 29, 2000), review of Paris to the Moon.
Leigh Bureau Web site, http://www.leighbureau.com/ (June 12, 2006), "Adam Gopnik."
Salon.com, http://www.salon.com/ (November 29, 2000), Chris Lehmann, "Paris When It Fizzles."