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At the Strangers' Gate: Arrivals in New York

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  408 ratings  ·  72 reviews
A vivid memoir that captures the energy, ambition and romance of New York in the 1980s from the beloved New Yorker Canadian writer, to stand alongside his bestselling Paris to the Moon and Through the Children's Gate.

When Adam Gopnik and his soon-to-be-wife, Martha Parker, left the comforts of home in Montreal for New York, the city then, much like today, was a pilgrimage
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by Knopf Canada
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Average rating 3.37  · 
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Nov 07, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: new-york-city, memoir
My own natural ambit, I discovered eventually, was somewhere where the two manners met, in a kind of aphoristic prose, filled with neat epigrams, placed on the page like shiny ribbons on a present--funny in parts and touching in others, with a few passionate political views trailing along behind.
There is a convention in successful memoirs and autobiographies, which is that no matter what the anecdote, make certain not to be the hero of your own story. The story that is already, yes, all abou
Brody Coronelli
Dec 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
I love memoirs centered around NYC, but this one completely failed to engage me. Gopnik’s voice gets lost in lengthy tangents, and the true aim of the book- to capture the splendor of living in New York as a young person during a period of urban/cultural transition- is lost in a fit of unnecessary details and dry commentary.
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just finished listening to Adam Gopnik read his tender and nostalgic memoir of his young adult years in New York with his wife, Martha. I was very taken with his story, as we are roughly the same age and arrived in the city at nearly the same time, Gopnik in fall, 1980 and me in early 1979. Gopnik is a native of Philadelphia, as am I, though his family relocated to Montreal sometime during his formative years. He has done a wonderful job of capturing 1980s New York life as it was for the young, ...more
Jan 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: memoir
I had to stop reading this. It was self-indulgent, show offy excuse for a book. The over use of clever metaphors (ugh) and fascinating vocabulary (ugh) made for cumbersome writing to say the least. But most of all, why does he think we care about his blue suit, his cockroaches and he and his wife eating Hagen Das ice cream. I'm at a loss as to why this was considered a good book except maybe because of what he has done in the past? Narcissism at it's best. ...more
Nov 16, 2017 added it
Shelves: nonfiction
I’ve always liked Adam Gopnik’s writing in The New Yorker. And I think I’ll always be a sucker for coming-to-New-York memoirs. I arrived in 1995, from Milwaukee. Gopnik arrived the previous decade, from Montreal. His was a pre-Internet era, and one where a certain real estate tycoon, now U.S. president, stepped onto the stage. New York in the eighties was the epicenter of the global art world, and Gopnik, who came to NYC as an art history grad student, got to know this world, and key players, pe ...more
Nov 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A prime example for the maxim (is it a maxim?) that not everything by your favourite authors is worth reading. This was not a book for me. It is steeped in art history and New York in the eighties and art history and oh my god it even has a tortuous novella on SoHo tucked in halfway through. Which isn't to say that this isn't a good book. It is. But it's good for other people. The style is naturally great -- I'd even venture to call its the purest distillation of Gopnikian Overdrive yet publishe ...more
Squirrel Circus
Jan 09, 2018 rated it liked it
First, I like the way this guy writes...about certain things. That is why it gets three stars - am I not supposed to dock stars for not liking the topic? Or feeling misled, rather? Too bad.

This book starts and ends in what I wanted to read about...he and his wife’s arrival, life, life changes in New York. It visits this well of a fantastic, engaging theme a few times in the middle too.

BUT, most of the book is about the ART WORLD of the 80s and 90s. I won’t even try to through some lingo around,
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
I loved Paris to the Moon, and thought I’d equally love this, seeing as I’ve lived in New York City and I generally enjoy Adam Gopnik’s writing. But this book was insanely difficult to read. It consisted of 2 or
3 humorous stories, a lot of humble bragging and name dropping, and a 150 page chapter about art that only those name dropped or referred to would find interesting. This book completely lost me.
Sep 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
Gopnik is one of the best writers alive, in the limited sense that his prose is unerring and musical, that he can make any subject interesting for twenty minutes. But this book, about being young, poor, and dizzily romantic in 80s New York, is too thin, 90% style. I don't resent reading about him and his wife hanging around department stores, nor even the long passage praising his wife, but I also don't take away anything beyond the mouthfeel of his words.

In some sense their impractical romantic
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My kind of book, the one that mixes humour with stories of life and the art scene, the most beautiful cities in the world (New York and Paris). If I could invite anyone for dinner and I'd know what to TL about that's barely interesting, Gopnik would be my choice. His wife will be someone I'll never forget, with her beauty and habit of sleeping days on end, her Nordic heritage. Also I'll never forget what his father told Gopnik when he left homely Montreal for New York:

Never underestimate the ins
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a "coming to New York" memoir set in the 1980s. Gopnik hobnobbed with NYC's cultural elite of the time and there is a lot of name-dropping in the book which seemed to put some people off. I really enjoyed it though - made it feel gossipy to me. I listened to this book on audio, which is narrated by the author. ...more
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great book about a very interesting life. He paints New York City in such a beautiful , albeit at times gritty light. That was New York in the 80s!
Mar 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
Maybe it’s because I started reading this book very shortly after having finished an excellent, exciting, and informative text, but I found it very hard to gel with this book. Indeed, after reading half of it, I decided to flick through the rest very rapidly.

Its initial premise was good: an account of Gopnik and his wife’s re-location from Montreal to New York, and the extent to which the Big Apple didn’t match their expectations. Through comical narrative, the author recollects their move to t
Joanna Katz
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
I enjoyed the beginning and end that described being in love with his wife. He had some refreshing insights about married life. I was disappointed by the book overall, though, after being charmed by Paris to the Moon years ago. I definitely recommend skipping from page 90 to about 150. The midsection about the 80's Soho art scene is tedious, convoluted and off putting. If this guy if such a hot shot art historian, why does he have to keep showing off critical chops to people who wanted to read a ...more
Aug 23, 2018 rated it liked it
3.75 stars.
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was hard to categorize. 3? 4? True to Gopnik form, there are wonderful parts and I doubt anyone can walk away from the bits about Martha without feeling the warmth and tenderness of their relationship (and what we all kind of hope to find in our own relationships). I'm not smart enough or well versed enough in art to follow the (admitted by Gopnik) digression about art. I was glad for his return to his topic of Martha. I am thankful to have read this after having traveled to New York and sp ...more
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018challenge
Adam Gopnik is a year older than my parents and came to New York right around the same time they did, which made this book feel very personal for me despite the cavernous difference between their experiences. My parents were young lawyers and lived in Brooklyn, my mother working for the district attorney as a criminal prosecutor, which is also a book I would love to read, although she will never write it.

Adam Gopnik and his wife, Martha Parker, lived in Manhattan and the world of art - mentored
Daniel Warriner
When Adam Gopnik's At the Strangers' Gate (2018) isn't irritating and inaccessible in its verbosity, it's highly entertaining and insightful. He mixes into the memoir just enough self-deprecation—as in the bare minimum—to keep his writing from sounding pretentious. Describing himself as "a naturally garrulous stylist," he meanders through and over and around and under all kinds of topics, with a focus on New York City in the 80s, his wife, Martha, the art scene, his journey to becoming a confide ...more
Rebecca Wilkins
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
I really like Adam Gopnik and read most everything he writes. This is at least his sixth book that I have read and of course the articles in The New Yorker. I saw him on TV last year and something he said made me wonder if he was having marriage problems which was somehow disappointing, like David Brooks and Christopher Kimbal taking on new spouses in their 50's and 60's. But this book cancelled those ideas as he seems to be very much still in love with Martha. He does explore some of what being ...more
Jun 07, 2018 rated it liked it
I understand why people don't like this book. Gopnik does seem to go off on tangents, but I find the tangents interesting. I remember NYC in the 80's and he's captured it so well. He seems to do a lot of "name dropping" but those were the people who made NY the city it was at that point in time. And he knew them. Many of them were artists because he was an art student. His descriptions of the Blue Room which was 9 X 11 and was in fact his entire living space are reminiscent of many first apartme ...more
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Adam Gopnik is an utterly delightful writer, on subjects from mundane to sublime. This memoir of his early life in NYC, with his equally young wife, beguiles with the classic tales of young folks new to the city - the teensy apartment, the first job, the next job, the roaches!

Sprinkled throughout the stories of how he and Martha adopt and adapt to their new home are lessons on how he learned about art and artists and fashion and writing and food and so much more. He seems to meet just about eve
David Newton
Jan 11, 2021 rated it it was ok
It’s hard to know where to fall with Adam Gopnik. One page I’m saying OK...I’m going to get into his writing but next two pages...probably not. He seems to at least be somewhat self aware of his faults but still one to keep on trucking in showcasing them. A humorous but a bit questionable story of forgetting or —perhaps they called the wrong person 24 hours before a keynote address —section is typical as is the story of losing the pants off the hanger to his first nice suit purchased in NYC whil ...more
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this book slowly, savouring each essay. Gopnik's memoir is dedicated to his wife Martha "first, last, love, life, ever, always, awake, or (quite often in this book) asleep". It depicts life in NYC in the 1980's of two young, very bright people. Gopnik worked at the MOMA, the Frik, GQ and finally at the New Yorker during this time. Many of his essays caused me to laugh out loud even days later: the story of his lost pants, the incident with his friend Richard Alvedon and the "button man", ...more
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this! While some of the art theory was a little above my head, other parts made me laugh out loud. Gopnik's descriptions of his and his wife's early years in New York is exactly what I'd imagine living in New York to be like, of what it takes to live there. I appreciated that he maintained an awareness of the absurdity of the art market, those involved in it, and the lives of the extremely wealthy, all while living proximal to these things.

Gopnik's style can take a little gettin
Jan P
Nov 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
I felt like I was reading a book about the 1950's instead of the 1980's. Gopnik writes in the style of Atlantic Monthly and New Yorker magazine writers of that time. Of course he did write articles for these and other magazines in the 1980's when he arrived in NYC. He is very droll, witty and insightful starting with the tiny one-room apartment he and his wife rented for 3 years before moving to a loft in Soho . . . his various jobs and inadequacy for them though they were all stepping stones to ...more
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this memoir of New York City in the 1980s. Gopnik writes sensitively and intelligently about the art and publishing world, as he straddled both of them. He captures the feeling of being new and excited by the possibilities of NYC, which was a time in between the wild and nearly bankrupt NYC of the 70s and the greed-is-good era of the late 80s (when I arrived there, sadly). Soho was coming into its own, and he had the good fortune of living there and being a part of the art world ...more
Adam Gopnik is a terrific writer--I always read his stuff in The New Yorker and I loved his book, Paris to the Moon. This memoir is as well-written as the rest of his work, but a lot of it is about New York City in the 1980s and modern/contemporary art criticism and artists. I am not that interested in the former and know very little about the latter, so I found myself skimming over those paragraphs. His memories of his time as a beginning writer and editor were especially interesting to me, as ...more
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
I'm a big fan of Gopnik and his writing in The New Yorker and was excited to read this memoir of his first encounters in New York in the 80's. The first few chapters were engaging... the tiny shoebox that he and his wife Martha lived in, his early employment, his failed attempts at cooking, the lovely reminiscences (is that a word?) of his marriage in the beginning.  However, most of the rest of the book is about the art scene at the time. I just wasn't interested in that.  I still love Gopnik's ...more
K Kelci
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: contemporary, memoir
This is a stylishly well written book, in where Gopnik succeeds in putting the words in the right order and engaging his own unique voice, just as he describes in the book. It serves as a moving meditation on New York, his own biography, his love and marriage with Martha. I think there is the perfect amount of story and philosophy balanced in this book -- challenging at parts, but providing a voice I want to return to thanks to its kindness, generosity, intelligence, and steadiness. And I was ri ...more
Matt Schiavenza
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
A delightful — and delightfully funny — memoir by Adam Gopnik of his first decade in New York. His mishaps and misadventures among New York's eccentric art and writer community are hysterically funny, and the book serves as a touching tribute to his beloved wife and muse, Martha. There are moments, I confess, where Gopnik's supreme erudition in the arts can leave the lay reader behind, but this is a minor criticism. A wonderful book. ...more
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An American writer, essayist and commentator. He is best known as a staff writer for The New Yorker—to which he has contributed non-fiction, fiction, memoir and criticism—and as the author of the essay collection Paris to the Moon, an account of the half-decade that Gopnik, wife Martha, and son Luke spent in the capital of France.

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