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tv   Adam Gopnik At the Strangers Gate  CSPAN  November 18, 2018 10:55pm-11:43pm EST

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>> caller: i've worked with black folks all my life. i would like to ask the doctor what is the solution. >> guest: some of what you said is this notion that we are going in the wrong direction talking about color. you should read my book claims how race is defined.
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>> host: professor at stony brook how to be less stupid about race is the name of her books. thanks for being on book tv. >> guest: thank you. good afternoon.gi please take your seats we are about to begin the afternoon session of conversations. thank you. i'm pleased to welcome you to the miami book fair.
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we look forward to many, many more. those that have given of themselves and their companies and corporations. in north america and the group foundation, the bachelor foundation, the knight foundation and so many others in addition to manyls individuals. whether it is this week during the street fair or during the year f because as you know, miai book fair is a year-round
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literary affair. i also want to recognize miami dade college. this is where it's at for the miami book fair. we are so proud to be a democracy of college open to any and every one that seeks to better themselves we are making a difference in thateg regard. we are going to continue an afternoon program and i hope you have been having a good time so far at the book fair. ask your question and then please be seated so that we can get as many answered as possible. >> and if so, please help me to
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welcome adam our featured author here this afternoon daniel cannot be here with us today. a little bit about adam has been writing for the new yorker since 1986. for the award for the magazine reporting in march of 201 2013 t he was awarded a medal. a memoir that you will hear about this afternoon at the stranger's gate let let's give m
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another warm welcome. thank you. [applause] toen be here for some urgent reason which i gather it was a health reason. i thought i would do this afternoon isn't getting reading to you from the book at the stranger's gate, i would just tell you somebody's read it and my publisher has been wanting to meet you. i would tell you three of the stories in the book that's about coming to new york it's about what happens to us, the
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collection of stories, anecdotes, tales about young couples with huge ambitions in tiny spaces. and the truth is we leave home to find home. that is a fundamental truth we leave home to find the place we know in order to find or make another place. and very often those of us who leave home first are not the ones that are the most unhappy but the ones that are the happiest and therefore feel the most compelled to go out and make a new one. that was the case for us when we decided to leave montréal canada where we have grown up and wed have gone that isn't a bad year finally where we are recovering. we decided to get on a bus we were just 20. we would get on a bus and go to new york city like something out of a musical comedy there was the bus, the driver putting our
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bags on if we decided to go to new york. my father came to see us off. the father figure always tells the young man or woman leaving the province is for the capital for three musketeers you may remember. it's good advice. my father is a jewish intellectualt so that was not te advice he gave me as i prepare to get on the bus. he said to me when you get to new york remember never underestimate the other person sensitivities -- insecurities. it takes a moment but it's a
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deep wisdom that i try to follow through with. we immediately rented the single smallest apartment in the history of human habitation. it was a nine by 11 room, basement room they call in new york a garden apartment we were sort of startled when they showed us these basement rooms because in all of the comedies we have trained our ideas on in all of those romantic comedies about people whe people read arn new york-f they always have a walk-up apartment with a skylight. remember that, but the basement
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rooms is always all. sister leaves in 1930 and this is the point i was going to make. it's like a game of musical chairs with no music and no chairs, just wherever you are is where you are. i was reading a biography of the great playwright and i discovered that indeed, the apartment is six floors up is exactly modeled on the first apartment he and his wife had
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ever rented and where they were still living when it landed on broadway. it was a nine by 11 room and a sofa and then i had a study a sheet of glass with a typewriter where i wrote for the new yorker magazine though they were not aware ofof it yet. then there was a tiny kitchen with you easy bake oven and a bathroom and a dining room right here that consisted of a piece of marble and then here was my wife's office right here where she sat and worked. we loved it until the first
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night it turned off and discovered it was infested with more cockroaches in the museum of natural history had displayed. what's scary about them is that shens them and if you have to hit them again that's when they explode and pick up the little pieces that are articulated so these were pouring in.
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overlaid with the courtesy this is the person paralyzed by her own good manners. how do you get 25 canadians out of a pool you say please get out of the pool. she sent me off to a lumber yard and we bought a four by six piece of plywood thinking thatto they would see it and think we are not supposed to go in there anymore thank you for the warning. it didn't work that way. [laughter] so faced with this sudden influx weog decided to do the obvious d the logical thing which was to go out and buy an expensive suit. follow the logic i got in a
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fellowship for $3,000 from the canadian university. there's a certain elevation and luxurious we wanted to live there in the way that fitzgerald lived in new york before dancing in the plaza fountain throwing g money out of the nose. we thought if i buy a suit to match it we will be living the life even in our little room so we went down to a discount
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warehouse it was beautiful and it was designed to. it isn't a huge name to conjure withha in fashion except for one thing he had done. he designed a white suit john lennon is wearing on the cover so the suit filed onlyy was he single breasted blue suit that also had the attitude of the beatles upon it because for our generation it was a kind of celestial event. we took it to a tailored on first avenue.
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martha went back to montréal and i don't know where we in the death to put them in this space about a week later i went to pick up the suit and it was that same week i looked up in the sky and saw yoko ono having a rating for their son and i went to get the suit, pick it up and he made a beautiful alterations and said it ignites. he put it on a hanger and put it inside and handed it to me. i walked out with it over my shoulder like gene kelly. i've never been happier in my life. everything was coming together. it was like a gene kelly new york musical we were living in it. got back here and because i was so in love in this moment i unzipped the bag and looked
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down. he i looked back and i saw to my horror that this was a bag that had no bottom and the suit hanger was slippery and the pants slipped right off the hanger out ofli the bag and was someplace else on first avenue. you know these moments where tragedy has struck but you haven't yet fully been able to internalize it in your body. it's like you see a beautiful antique vase leaning about to fall over. it hasn't fallen but you know that you will never get there in time.sh there's two conditions. water and zero my god. the pants were completely gone.
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this is someone who also clearly lost his house well. i'm getting to that part of the story. in montréal where i come from if you lost your pants anyplace else, someone would pick them up, put them o on a car hood, right a note and say these pants were found monday at 4:00 whoever owns them. it's like a huge flood that pushes everything down.
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i looked everywhere for my suit pants and the worst of it wasn't that i just noticed they were gone for good but immediately i had been moved into the wrong kind n of literature. i was no longer in a fitzgerald story, i was in one of those fables in st. petersburg. searching for the lost overcoat and spend the rest of their lives along the walls in a state of permanent loss. that is the story that i was now in forever. i finally went up and down the street rises able to look any
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further. she took in the full dimensions in her body an and then said hae you tried looking in the park. when we were meant to be married if you later i wore the jacket of the blue suit and an old pair of jeans and sneakers while she wore the white dress and we were married. about two weeks after that, we were here in this place we called it the blue room that was
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part of our poetic infusion into this space. we certainly heard a hubbub out on the street, couldn't figure it out, a lot of people talking. i went up and i heard john lennon had been shot earlier that evening. and somehow out of those two fatalities, my own trivial and passing one some little tingle of implanted inside of ourselves as inviting as new york and its poetry was, the analogy of the city was every bit as real the
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hatruth is i never had another pair ofir suit trousers because the first is a little bit likeit the first time you have sex. you can do it again but you never get to do it over. it's always the same first condition. so i always do and i taught my children i'm walking around the streets of new york children to this day news from the waist down. [laughter] you think about it new york is like the opposite of the city in detail about the amber you can walk around in only one place all its. you can walk around for 37 years and the only one who knows his you it's the first story in the book is about my suit trousers. [applause] second story in the book has to do a little bit with food which is a subject i've written about
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a lot. it's a subject i think about a great deal in the context of marriage is people often ask me how was it we were able to live for three and a half years in a single night without tearing eachsi other apart a psychology professor put together, put two young people in a room to see how long it takes them to kill each other. if you get in a fight early on the relationship you say i saw her and she really was for the first time. or i stepped back and had some perspective on this place was way too small for any of that activity. you couldn't step back and see anybody any new perspective.
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i have no new memory i only see her as a kind of picasso portrait and i get a bit of an idea, have a smile over there come a tin,tiny piece of her not here they had to put together a composite tha but we did have oe fight. is anyone here a parent or a child. [laughter] it's like all happy families are alike. all unhappy marriages have fights and you have a different fight everyday. we all know couples like that they find something new to write about everyday. all happy marriage is the fight everyday but it's always the same fight. you have the same fight over and over and it's usually about food
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because food is the place where things intersect. they came from philadelphia to florida with a kind of migration in reverse and when you visited them they always have the same fight. my uncle would say they give large portions in restaurants to charge more money and my aunt would say they had to charge more money innt restaurants because they had given such large portions. they had this fight for 50 years as long as i knew them even with his vocal cords removed in the hospital they still had thisor fight. i tell you they give you the big portions to charge you more.
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i've been talking about this for half a century same fight over and over. they are like a couple that just went on for 50 years. while we had a fight and this was about food. i should have known this when we got married because we've been dated to be debating a long time. it was a little flirtatious so when she said well done i thought it's not a bit of it. and then another five minutes. they were obsessed and you couldn't have anything medium, you have to have everything
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rare. it took a while to figure out what was going on. it came from iceland, a long line of icelandic. you break off th the back leg of lamb and chew on it. [laughter] it is from their agricultural past showing now they were sophisticated people who could cook for a long time. my parents if it's just the opposite because they were in rebellion against their parents. they were at war with the first. [laughter] they were in rebellion against. so rare in france and pink meant paris.
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it is greater than any religious or this could possibly be. it came to a head when i went and got some tuna to cook for dinner. some of you may remember one of the key things about that is that it's when we made the transition from tuna fished tuna if anyonet. recalls that. until about 1983 u. then mixed it with mayonnaise and served on sandwiches and suddenly there was a tuna steak that was like a filet mignon you could cook any way you wanteanyway you wanted y could serve rare. my mom had told me to cook, one of those women of the 60s, hugely accomplished but believed in cooking. she taught he her sons, not her daughters how to cook fish he
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shhad, to come to new york she d given me a dictionary of cuisine oriented encyclopedia so i would be back here cooking every night so i would be cooking and huge clouds of smoke, people thought we were running a crack den because there was no other explanation. martha had to fight her way within a search and pink. i would put it down over here and call martha's table. she cuts it open and says i can't be this. this is to rare. part of me was so inflamed by this i often wondered if it wasn't a kind of forgive me if i share this i wondered if it wasn'therewasn't the kind of ung
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the whole thing. i got up to make for the door like the husband in a sitcom. i didn't even see it in childbirth with a very gracious and polite person she looked at me and said you are going to go back and finish cooking the fi fish. i knew that he was a pivotal moment in our relationship and
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our marriage and so of course i did. i went back and i finished cooking the tuna. the next day the super came down and said i don't know what you are doing in there but you've got to stop because all of the neighbors were complaining about the smoke coming up. it wathat was a huge blessing be i had to start brazing and stewing. couldn't sauté anymore. the only two terms are tough and tender. it was tough when i put in that i'vbuti've been praising it forr hours. it's such a beautiful moral dimension to build a marriage on. anything tough can be made tender withgh enough care to dissolve a marriage is.
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and then when we left the apartment we found a beautiful word to build the marriage around and i urge it on every young couple in the room and that word is medium. [laughter] you have one axis like pennsylvania avenue but at the same time you say i will take it medium rare or i will take it medium well and you are both ond the street access in your own little private chapel that he can go through life that way. so, medium and tender are the words for a long and happy marriage. i wish that ron and rose were still alive. he passed away in miami a couple decades ago. i wouldn't be able to tell them
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the price is always do get bigger if you are married to the right person to portions also get larger. that is the second story in the book. [applause] i will tell you the third story and then i would love to take some questions. eventually, i got a job i became the editor gq magazine in charge of all the moisturizers, the shampoos and i spent three years of my life talking about shampoo. i thought i was at the center of showbiz and i would go back and do it any time. finally we were able to move downtown and we bought a little loft. we thought it was great. we were exchanging one kind or another because it was infested
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with rodents and there was a whole chapter in the book. martha clifford vision of the world would say go away, but they didn't. so she insisted i stay up at night to keep an eye out while she was sleeping. that may sound like an impossible demand that one of the happiest in our relationship is that she's a champion sleeper, one of those who can't sleep any time for any length of time come to eight hours, ten hours. i called her and she hasn't woken up yet, just waking up on a saturday morning in new york. i have yet to sleep with my adult life you can see the circle. [laughter] it just doesn't happen. so i'm awake on a friday night keeping an eye out for mice and martha is asleep in the bedroom.
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it's one big space but it's strange how when we assigned them a functions they have all f the intensity and feeling of the space you say this is the dining room and somebody says it is a space you don't want to be. that's the kitchen and that's where you want to go. all these pieces because you designate them and that is true we put it in the corner and t immediately became the bedroom. by this point we had been married now for five or six years and to be honest your life changes a lot after five or six years of being together. at least it seems that way to me. you are early time together and then there comes a time it's little more expert and you begin to reenact like the civil war reenactors who go away to be
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fight the battle of second run. everybody knows everything that will happen. [laughter] who will advance and retreat. what everyone willbe be wearing. yet the funny thing is they enjoy it more than the people that fought the original battle ever did. that's true. we, were just edging into that part of our lives. so i end up and the phone rings. i just started publishing a few pieces about art and the art world and obscure magazine. the phone rings, i pick it up and he says this is sean from the conference and we are all looking forward to your keynote
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tomorrow morning. i have no memory of having any keynote a much less for the individualism conference and a better person than i am would have said i have no idea what you're talking about. so i said hold on a moment to get my calendar. i didn't have a calendar. i walked over and i said could you tell me again the details i'm sure i have everything correctly. i thought what am i going to do. they will have a vague idea of what that is for the many individuals.
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we put on our suit jacket and jeans and i go down, i get on the subway and i go up to 50 s. and lexington. i think to myself who arere thee people.
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are they scientologists? [laughter] pluralism and individualism e. five. so, i stood up to the m microphe and i gave a keynote address ayat would have done professor orrin proud. i say when we confront the reality of modern civilization can only understand through the full range of its pluralism and yet we are driven back to realize that any is the composite of the countless individualism that make it up. [applause] i went on like that for 35 minutes. [laughter]
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they said thank you that was healing and the single best thing any organizer does, they slipped the envelope. never been paid for a lecture before. i waited and i opened it up, $500. all the money in the world. i come back home, take my clothes off, get back in bed about 9:30 by now. i go to sleep, martha finally wakes up and i say you will not believe what happened while you were asleep. [laughter] i had $500 remember the whole dream of coming to new york is that we would live in this flamboyant and frivolous way and now we have $500 so we decided to go and have one great dinner so we did, we went out and had
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champagne and we went.com. it was like one of those 1930s cartoons where the mice are playingli fiddles. they are enacting all of the themes from earlier that morning because when you look at one all you can see is the plurality and when you take in the 100 that are in your apartment you keep seeing these individuals.
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i realized suddenly i had a manhattan epiphany the relationship to new york was like the relationship of the mice to our loft. no one invited us to come from d nada either. we have forced our way inside and made a living by sheer force of will. so as i charged up to 75th street that night was the first time i ever thought i was a citizen of new york. thank you so much. >>[applause] i've also -- thank you. that is a tape of my book that i would love to take some questions. i think we have a few minutes.
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i heard a snippet this morning. talking about thanksgiving i want to know how you are preparing your turkey this year two things are true one in india we call it a turkey we both get the country of origin totally wrong. i have basted turkeys and brian
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turkeys and my experiences every turkey tastes like every other turkey you have. it's a magic food because it never gets worse and it never gets better. those people who don't speak hebrew you just know how to do that and you hope it will please god in the long run. and that is how i do my turkeys now. >> about four decades ago, you were my student at school in philadelphia. your science and drama teacher.
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let me say when i first came into the office to find out who my students were, ato adam was n in the eighth grade, you figure that out and i said how can i tell them and they said you will see. you heard about this big difference we make a movie together? i was at the living arts apprentice actor and wanted to make a film and we made a movie together he came onto the stagee and the ball was called darkne
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darkness. i remember that extremely well. do you have more embarrassing stories to tell? [laughter] when i left philadelphia to new york i also ended up in a one room with cockroaches and also, i wife at the book fair this year longing to be free, and i will see you tonight. [applause] my best friend i haven't seen him in 40 years and be reunited this fall can we take one more
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question? that is a silly thing to say that billy martin of the magazine editors she has a better eye for talent with a willingness to put her line than anyone i've worked with in publishing and editing. one year out of cambridge or movie critic of the magazine.
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i love and adore her and like billy martin i'm always in all of somebody that can do that. just an uncanny judgment of mtalent. i love and adore her and hope even after i joke today i can still counter as a good friend. thankk you for coming. [applause] >> the author will be signing his book across the hall if you would like to join in on the conversation. >> lifelock and hope in syria. what makes your book different about what's

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