At the Strangers’ Gate: Arrivals in New York
Fans of Adam Gopnik’s work in The New Yorker will be overjoyed by his new book, At the Stranger’s Gate: Arrivals in New York. Equal parts love letter to the city of New York and memoir of his own life—from his immigration from Canada to the US to how he honed his voice as a writer—the book captures what it means to be beginning. The start of a life, of a career, of making a home in a new country, of finding yourself.
Perhaps the greatest gift of At the Stranger’s Gate, though, is in Gopnik’s incredible eye for detail and ability to craft a metaphor from seemingly anything. Where the first chapter of the book is a reflection on a tiny apartment that he and his wife Martha made into their own closet storybook, the second is a meditation on the loss of a pair of pants, the bottom half of an extravagantly purchased suit. It is that second chapter that establishes the tone for the rest of the book; part wistful, part philosophical, it is the kind of writing a teacher would show a class and say, “This, here. This is what you should aim for.” Full well knowing few people ever reach Gopnik’s level of honesty and artistry.
Later moments in the book—lavish dinners, a loft full of mice, the seasons changing in New York beneath seemingly ever-graying skies—are so beautifully rendered that reading the pages is a bit like studying a painting up close. The more you pour over the details, the more drawn in you are to a scene that transforms with each new moment of observation. If you are a lover of New York, or a fanatic for the written word, Gopnik’s latest book is an absolute treat.