The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik will speak tonight at the Paepcke Auditorium as part of Aspen Words’ Winter Words Series. Claire Woodcock spoke with Gopnik in the studio and brings us this conversation.
What service do you think that storytelling provides to the public?
"Everybody loves stories. We divide our live into stories when we're sitting down at dinner. We don't quiz each other and do q and a's, we tell each other stories, we swap stories so that's sort of the most natural human thing we can do, turn our life into stories and then share them with other people. At the same time, I do think we live in a society where that function, storytelling function gets reduced gets diminished because we're always tweeting to each other and sharing social media and there's not as much time for the kind of relaxed storytelling that we all enjoy."
Throughout your career you've written a lot about food. With all the anxieties resulting from politics in today's day and age, what do you think people can learn from food?
"The day after Trump was elected, that Wednesday, I have a dear friend in New York named Peter Hoffman, terrific chef, and we called each other up or texted each other and said let's cook tonight. And he came over with all of his family and I had all of my family and we just cooked that night and served food. And I cannot tell you how coalescing, how curative it was at least for that one night and I think that two things are true. Food is never interesting as food in itself. Food is interesting as a sacrament of human communion, human conversation. And I think in a time of trauma and trouble, there's nothing more powerful than sitting down with friends over dinner with a bottle of wine, alcohol is a very helpful emollient in difficult times and talking conversing, being reminded of the normal and proper rhythms of life, so I think food can play an enormous role in that way."
And how does that all relate to the motif of the table? I've noticed that a lot in your work. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
"Well I've just finished writing a musical which goes into rehearsal this week, we'll open in New Haven on May 10. It's called "The Most Beautiful Room in New York" but is indeed all about tables. The first song in the show, the heroes anthem is called "Your Table Will Always Be Waiting." Which he points out that all the other furniture in your house is unreliable. Your bed, your chair, who needs them. But your table will always be waiting for you. The table is the one place that you can rely on as the place you can coalesce around and take part in. And so for me the book I wrote the table comes first the title came from a wonderful chef in London, Fergus Henderson who said to me once in genuine bafflement, "I don't understand how it is that a young couple starting off in life can buy a bed, don't they know the table comes first?" And he meant it right? That what's more important in the food that's on the table are the forces that lift the table, human forces and I feel very strongly about that and I believe in dinner. And this musical I've written "The Most Beautiful Room in New York" is all about the healing power of the table and the hero in the course of it has to learn that it's not his table that matters it's our table, the first song is called "My Table Will Always Be Waiting, the last song is called "Our Table Will Always Be Waiting," and that's his moral progress in the course of the show."
Tickets can be purchased at the Wheeler Box Office, at aspenshowtix.com or at the door of the event Tuesday, March 21 at Paepcke Auditorium at 6pm. Explore Booksellers will have Gopnik's books for purchase.