Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Life's a cabaret: I recently finished Adam Gopnik's Through the Children's Gate, his follow-up to his first collection of essays, Paris to the Moon. I cannot recommend the book strongly enough, especially if you like funny essays. This passage, read on an airplane, caused me to laugh so hard I woke the four-year-old sleeping across the aisle:

The whole speech, I thought, was so profound that it could be parsed and highlighted like one of those dog-eared assigned texts you find on the reserve shelf in undergraduate libraries: Artists suffered from narcissism, which made them susceptible to banter, which they could overcome by resourcefulness, which might lead them to—well, to take up genre studies. ("Genre studies," I was to discover, was Grosskurthese for "journalism." He often indulged in strangely Johnsonian periphrases: Once, talking about Woody Allen, [Dr. Grosskurth] remarked, "My wife, who was an extremely witty woman, was naturally curious to see such a celebrated wit. We saw him in a cabaret setting. I recall that he was reciting samples of his writings in a state of high anxiety." It took me days of figuring—what kind of reading had it been? a kind of Weimar tribute evening?—to realize that Dr. and Mrs. Grosskurth had gone to a nightclub and heard the comedian's monologue.)

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