November 28, 2004

Handing on the torch

Adam Gopnik has not been on particularly good form of late. Last year he wrote a much-derided article about riding the bus in New York, which finally got its comeuppance in the New York Times today. In a first-person piece for the City section, Simi Linton, who rides the buses in a wheelchair, effortlessly takes Gopnik down a notch or five:

In an article in The New Yorker about riding the bus, the author groused about how a "guy in a wheelchair held things up for three minutes." He said that "law and propriety dictate" that buses pick up, as he called us, the "wheelchair-bound." While he allowed that the lift is a "civic mitzvah" - the city's good deed, I suppose he meant - he said that the municipal employee had been "reduced, or raised, to a valet."
I would be embarrassed if I felt the drivers saw their role as personal valet or good Samaritan. They are public employees acting in fulfillment of federal law. They provide a critical service, one that enhances the comfort and safety of all New Yorkers.

In fact, it's been a long while since Adam Gopnik really enjoyed much buzz. He was The New Yorker's art-world wunderkind in the 1980s, and then moved on to pave the way for David Sedaris when he filed piece after piece on the idiosyncracies of his own overpaid middle-class French ex-pat life. Not many people thanked him, although his writing could be wonderful. Since his return to New York, however, I don't think he's written a single really worthwhile article.

The career trajectory of Gopnik's erstwhile editor, David Kuhn, has been similar. Long Tina Brown's right hand man, he was "v hot" at Vanity Fair and "v hot" at The New Yorker before becoming not hot at Talk and positively icy at Brill's Content.

All the same, these two men surely know buzz when they see it. Right now one of the most buzzworthy magazines in New York is Topic, the refreshing young magazine I lauded back in 2003 and which has only got better since. If you want to see the torch being passed on, the old guard honoring the new, then get yourself over to the Accompanied Library at the National Arts Club tomorrow night. Topic magazine is holding what it calls "an intimate night of literature (and booze)", hosted by Kuhn and featuring Gopnik. More importantly, however, your $30 ticket will also get you (a) into a lovely space well worth knowing about; (b) drunk; (c) well fed by Cook's Venture; and (d) a subscription to the magazine (worth $30 just on its own) which, if you don't want it for yourself, you can always give away as a Christmas present. What's not to like?

Remember – buy your tickets online now, since they won't be sold on the door. It really is a good cause.

Posted by Felix at 11:18 PM GMT

Will it be accessible to the wheelchair-bound?

Posted by: Stefan Geens on November 29, 2004 12:10 AM

Re Gopnik's output, I liked an article a few years ago about a parrott colony out in Brooklyn somewhere.

Posted by: susan kelly on December 2, 2004 07:39 PM