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05 October 2010

Book Review: Through the Children's Gate: A Home in New York

Through the Children's Gate: A Home in New YorkThrough the Children's Gate: A Home in New York by Adam Gopnik
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh Adam Gopnik.  How in love I once was with you.  How amazed I was with your facility to dig into layers of everyday life and come up with wise genius.  How many times did I read aloud to friends your original New Yorker "Bumping Into Ravioli" essay?


I still may be in love with you, but this book tested my love, much like Cupid tested Psyche; I turned on the light to see you and you ran away, leaving only a poorly edited, slapped-together published collection of essays to remember you by.  You even messed with my beloved Ravioli.  Why would you do such a thing?


And perhaps, Adam, I still love you but choose not to love one of your books.  That is indeed possible.  It may, Adam, not even be your fault, as this tome is so New York as to be inconceivable to one who doesn't love New York as you do.  Which I categorically do not.


Don't get me wrong, Adam.  I read the whole thing.  And I found many phrases and thoughts to be ponder-worthy.  Sadly, some of those phrases and thoughts were repeated, almost verbatim, in different essays, a fault that lies not with you, perhaps, but with your editors.  Or with your publishers, who put you on deadline.


But even in this slipshod collection of words, your amazing clever wisdom peeks out every once in a great while;


"In my experience, at least, it is the liberal parents who tend to be the most socially conservative-the most queasy at the endless ribbon of violence and squalor that passes for American entertainment, more concerned to protect their children from it.  One might have the impression that it is the Upper West Side atheist and the Lancaster County Amish who dispute the prize for who can be most obsessive about having the children around the table at six p.m. for a homemade dinner from farm-raised food."


"The art of child rearing, of parenting, is to center the children and then knock them off center; to make them believe that they are safely anchored in the middle of a secure world and somehow also to let them know that the world they live in is not a fixed sphere with them at the center; that they stand instead alongside a river of history, of older souls, that rushes by them, where they are only a single small incident.  To make them believe that they can rule all creation, while making them respect the malevolent forces that can ruin every garden:  That is the task."


"Childhood is just like life, only ten times faster."


"We didn't make the children fly.  We simply lowered the heavens and told them they were flying, as we always do."


In conclusion, Adam, I choose to still love you.  I will lay this book aside and convince myself to still gasp in excited anticipation when I see your name affixed to an article in the New Yorker table of contents.  I will give you a second chance.  And, probably, a third chance, too, if need be.  Because I know how good you can be.


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