Not long after Adam Gopnik returned to New York at the end of 2000 with his wife and two small children, they witnessed one of the great and tragic events of the city’s history. In his sketches and glimpses of people and places, Gopnik builds a portrait of our altered New York: the changes in manners, the way children are raised, our plans for and accounts of ourselves, and how life moves forward after tragedy. Rich with Gopnik’s signature charm, wit, and joie de vivre , here is the most under-examined corner of the romance of New York: our struggle to turn the glamorous metropolis that seduces us into the home we cannot imagine leaving.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: Through the Children's Gate|
|Release Date: 12-10-2008|
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Through the Children's Gate
In the fall of 2000, just back from Paris, with the sounds of its streets still singing in my ears and the codes to its courtyards still lining my pockets, I went downtown and met a man who was making a perfect map of New York. He worked for the city, and from a set of aerial photographs and underground schematics he had turned every block, every highway, and every awning—every one in all five boroughs!—into neatly marked and brightly colored geometric spaces laid out on countless squares. Buildings red, streets blue, open spaces white, the underground tunnels sketched in dotted lines . . . everything in New York was on the map: every ramp to the Major Deegan Expressway and every abandoned brownstone in the Bronx.
The kicker was that the maniacally perfect map was unfinished and even unfinishable, because the city it described was too “dynamic,” changing every day in ways that superceded each morning’s finished drawing. Each time everything had been put in place—the subway tunnels aligned with the streets, the Con Ed crawl spaces with the subway tunnels, all else with the buildings above—someone or other would come back with the discouraging news that something had altered, invariably a lot. So every time he was nearly done, he had to start all over.
I keep a small section of that map in my office as a reminder of several New York truths. The first is that an actual map of New York recalls our inner map of the city. We can’t make any kind of life in New York without composing a private map of it in our minds—and these inner maps are always detailed, always divided int...