The one thing Leon Wieseltier ever got right

Writing a few weeks after 9/11:

[Adam] Gopnik has a skill for shrinking everything in the universe to the scale of a bourgeois amenity, but he surpassed himself with the observation that the odor of the destruction was “almost like the smell of smoked mozzarella.”


  1. BillR December 27, 2014 at 8:50 am | #

    One of the few things Andrew Sullivan ever got right:

    Wieseltier is a connoisseur and cultivator of personal hatred.

  2. gstally December 27, 2014 at 10:39 am | #

    “Not everybody has lived as if the media is all there is. Not everybody has been consecrated only to cash and cultural signifiers. Not everybody has been a pawn of irony.”

    Not everybody, but it is so often so for those lonely and poor.

    Really though, thank God for Wieseltier to dictate to everyone the right, or rather should I say wrong, way to experience and cope with tragedy.

  3. Anthony Greco December 27, 2014 at 7:45 pm | #

    I largely share the above-expressed opinions of Wieseltier, but I feel obliged to acknowledge at least one really excellent Wieseltier column in TNR in which he beautifully nailed Michael Bloomberg for the myopic plutocrat that he is. (Sorry I don’t remember the date, but it was about 5 years ago, I think.)

  4. LFC December 31, 2014 at 5:04 pm | #

    This is not a comment on the quote in the OP, but I happened to read A. Gopnik’s recent piece in The New Yorker on the Paris Commune b/c someone drew it to my attention. I don’t agree with all his emphases and judgments (he’s probably too hard on the Communards), esp. the negative way he uses the word “ideology” at the end (though that negative meaning is probably one of the dictionary definitions of the word), but I thought it was an informative piece, whether one agreed with it or not. I don’t really think it could fairly be said that he shrank the subject of the Commune “to the scale of a bourgeois amenity.” (Also should say I haven’t read Merriman’s book that Gopnik was reviewing).

  5. Vetty January 2, 2015 at 8:02 am | #

    In the same publication, James Wolcott’s review of a Gopnik book was even more savage:

    “AND YUPPIE TRIUMPHALISM en-twines with New York chauvinism, as civic pride fluffs its chest feathers and proclaims bragging rights. It is tiresome and a little puzzling how New Yorkers feel the need to keep asserting that “We’re Number One.” London is a world-class capital with an all-star historical cast, but you don’t hear London authors crooning and crowing about their city’s brio, flair, resilience, and iconic status at regular intervals. London’s greatness is taken more in stride by the locals. But here it’s as if the influx of wealth that has spiked real estate values since the 9/11 bounceback has endowed the city with some of the smug exclusivity of a gated community. In a “Talk of the Town” piece in 2005, Gopnik lamented the new street signs that were being bolted into place at Manhattan’s daunting intersections. The new signs were aesthetically displeasing, he argued, and, worse, they catered to the alien and the uninitiated. “New York is not a hard place to get around in. If you don’t know where you are, you don’t deserve to be here.” There speaks the Manhattan provincial. We’ve come along way, obviously, from “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,” as Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli used to instruct in that fight anthem “New York, New York.” It used to be that earning the battle stripes of a true New Yorker was a challenge to be met. Now it’s a privilege that derives from the steep admission price.”

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