Adam Gopnik (born August 24, 1956) is an American writer and essayist. He is best known as a staff writer for The New Yorker—to which he has contributed non-fiction, fiction, memoir and criticism since 1986.
Gun Control and the Virginia Tech Massacre, The New Yorker (2007)
- The cell phones in the pockets of the dead students were still ringing when we were told that it was wrong to ask why. As the police cleared the bodies from the Virginia Tech engineering building, the cell phones rang, in the eccentric varieties of ring tones, as parents kept trying to see if their children were OK. To imagine the feelings of the police as they carried the bodies and heard the ringing is heartrending; to imagine the feelings of the parents who were calling — dread, desperate hope for a sudden answer and the bliss of reassurance, dawning grief — is unbearable. But the parents, and the rest of us, were told that it was not the right moment to ask how the shooting had happened — specifically, why an obviously disturbed student, with a history of mental illness, was able to buy guns whose essential purpose is to kill people — and why it happens over and over again in America.
One More Massacre, The New Yorker (2012)
- The truth is made worse by the reality that no one--really no one--anywhere on the political spectrum has the courage to speak out about the madness of unleashed guns and what they do to American life.
- The reality is simple: every country struggles with madmen and ideologues with guns, and every country--Canada, Norway, Britain--has had a gun massacre once, or twice. Then people act to stop them, and they do--as over the past few years has happened in Australia. Only in America are gun massacres of this kind routine, expectable, and certain to continue.
Roanoke and the Value of Guns, The New Yorker (2015)
- A new study by Adam Lankford, of the University of Alabama, which will be presented next week at the annual conference of the American Sociological Association, shows a strong correlation between the availability of guns and the prevalence of gun massacres. With the same certainty that David Hemenway’s work established the link between the number of guns in a society and the number of gun killings, we now know that there is a correlation between the availability of guns and the major public assaults that have been a part of American life since Columbine.
The Second Amendment Is a Gun-Control Amendment, The New Yorker (2015)
- The tragedy happens—yesterday at a school in Oregon, and then as it will again—exactly as predicted, and uniquely here. It hardly seems worth the energy to once again make the same essential point that the President—his growing exasperation and disbelief moving, if not effective, as he serves as national mourner—has now made again: we know how to fix this. Gun control ends gun violence as surely an antibiotics end bacterial infections, as surely as vaccines end childhood measles—not perfectly and in every case, but overwhelmingly and everywhere that it’s been taken seriously and tried at length. These lives can be saved. Kids continue to die en masse because one political party won’t allow that to change, and the party won’t allow it to change because of the irrational and often paranoid fixations that make the massacre of students and children an acceptable cost of fetishizing guns.
- So there is no need to amend the Constitution, or to alter the historical understanding of what the Second Amendment meant. No new reasoning or tortured rereading is needed to reconcile the Constitution with common sense. All that is necessary for sanity to rule again, on the question of guns, is to restore the amendment to its commonly understood meaning as it was articulated by this wise Republican judge a scant few years ago. And all you need for that is one saner and, in the true sense, conservative Supreme Court vote. One Presidential election could make that happen.
How to Raise a Prodigy, The New Yorker (2018)
Adam Gopnik (January 29, 2018). How to Raise a Prodigy. The New Yorker. Retrieved January 27, 2018.
- We know we’ve come to a crossroads when German childhood is being held up as an idealized model for Americans.
- [M]ath prodigies are set somewhat apart from the more general-capacity prodigies, being seemingly possessed of a weird bit of wiring more than an over-all enhanced capacity for learning to do things.
- There appear to be as many learning styles among prodigies as there are prodigies to express them.
- We wince at the brutality of parents who ship their young kids around to perform for adults at the expense of their childhood — but, then, that was Mozart’s childhood, and though by the end Mozart may have wished for less attention as a kid performer and more as a grownup composer, he never for a moment wished not to be Mozart.
- We understand instinctively that being a prodigy wasn’t [Wayne Gretzky’s] platform for a lifetime’s achievement; it marked the possibility of a highly specific, highly term-limited kind of performance.
- With all the effort in the world, the results of cramming kids are likely to be more ambiguous than we can predict, not because the child rearing was done wrong but because all such results tend to be ambiguous.
- What typically emerges from looking at kids, gifted and ordinary, is that, from the kids’ point of view, accomplishment, that is, the private sense of mastery, the hard thing suddenly made easy, counts for far more in their inner lives than does the achievement—the competition won, the reward secured.
- What sustains us in any competition are the moments of interiority when the competition vanishes; what sustains us in any struggle are the moments when we forget the struggle.
- Accomplishment, the feeling of absorption in the flow, of mastery for its own sake, of knowing how to do this thing, is what keeps all of us doing what we do, if we like what we do at all.
- Andre Agassi, in his account of becoming an embittered prodigy, seems never to have liked tennis much, except as a vehicle for achievement. The kids who do like life inside the lines can find the flow within that green-and-white geometry.
- We disapprove of parental hovering not because it won’t pay off later—it might; it does!—but because it’s obnoxious now.
- Strenuously competitive parents may indeed produce high-achieving grownups, but it’s in the nature of things that high-achieving adults are likely to become frustrated and embittered old people, once the rug is pulled out from under their occupation.
- Child rearing is an art, and what makes art art is that it is doing several things at once.
- The same parents can raise a dreamy, reflective girl and a driven, competitive one—the job is not to nurse her nature but to help elicit the essential opposite: to help the dreamy one to be a little more driven, the competitive one to be a little more reflective. The one artisanal, teachable thing is outer conduct.
- Teaching kids to become something other than what they were born to be is probably impossible; teaching them to behave in ways that seem unnatural to them at the start is actually not that hard.
- As satirists have pointed out for millennia, civilized behavior is artificial and ridiculous: it means pretending to be glad to see people you aren’t glad to see, praising parties you wished you hadn’t gone to, thanking friends for presents you wish you hadn’t received. Training kids to feign a passion is the art of parenting. The passions they really have belong only to them.
The Las Vegas Massacre Report and the Rise of Second Amendment Nihilism, The New Yorker (2018)
Gopnik, Adam (August 9, 2018). "The Las Vegas Massacre Report and the Rise of Second Amendment Nihilism". The Atlantic.
- A document, recently released—“LVMPD Criminal Investigative Report of the 1 October Mass Casualty Shooting,” to give it its official name—offering the local-police-department summary of the Las Vegas gun massacre of last year...
The report takes on the supposedly baffling question of Paddock’s motive, and what comes through is that—unless some astonishing new connection or fact appears in the future—his intention appears to have been purely nihilistic. Paddock wanted to kill a lot of people because he wanted to kill a lot of people. Feelings of frustration and insufficient power, the frequent ignition of such killings, may have moved him, too, and yet they seem to have been more unrooted than such feelings usually are among mass killers. He came from a troubled family, but had managed to acquire money, a girlfriend, an occupation. Basically, it seems to have been an item on his bucket list. He knew that the one thing he could do before he died was murder a lot of people. Why did he want to kill a lot of people? Because he wanted to kill a lot of people. So, he Googled any number of cheerful outdoor concerts, in California and Chicago and also in Las Vegas, and made reservations at hotels looking down on them, and kept buying weapons of mass murder, and finally, there he was, a little god of death.