Adam in wonderland

From The Guardian:

Book After five years in Paris, New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik returns to the Big Apple with Through the Children’s Gate and falls in love all over again.

Adam Gopnik, who has been writing for the New Yorker since 1986, is best known for his book Paris to the Moon, a collection of dispatches from the French capital which he wrote from 1995 to 2000. It’s a beautiful book. Gopnik is a brilliant writer in any case – warm, witty, wise and learned – but his outsider status in France brought something extra to proceedings: a certain beadiness, perhaps. Now here’s another book about a city, New York, to which he and his wife and their two children returned seven years ago and, to a degree, his outsider status is intact. Gopnik, though an American, grew up in Canada, and first came to New York, eyes on stalks, as a boy and then, to live, as a postgraduate.

For him, New York is not so much home as the ultimate achievement. But even if this were not so, as he points out right at the start, it’s impossible to ‘own’ New York, even if its canyons are imprinted on your DNA. As a boy, he found the idea of it so wonderful that he could only ever imagine it as ‘some other place, greater than any place that would let me sleep in it’. Installed in his great aunt Hannah’s Riverside Drive apartment, the city was still a distant constellation of lights that he had not yet been allowed to visit. ‘Ever since, New York has existed for me simultaneously as a map to be learned and a place to aspire to – a city of things and a city of signs, the place I actually am and the place I would like to be even when I am here.’

Anyone who has ever visited New York will recognise this feeling, but still, it’s reassuring to have it articulated by one so urbane and clever.

More here.