Malcolm Gladwell v. Adam Gopnik
Last night at Capitale, The Moth celebrated ten years of storytelling. Media polymath Kurt Andersen, Jewy comedian Andy Borowitz, Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, potter Jonathan Adler and Lili Taylor all sat at one table in the front. Harper's figurehead Lewis Lapham didn't show. The main event: The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik would engage in heated storytelling duel with co-worker Malcolm Gladwell. Real estate mini-mogul Adam Gordon sat at the same table as Garrison Keillor, who was there to receive the first-ever Moth Award Honoring the Art of the Raconteur. Keillor looks like Dwight Schrute from "The Office" and is much funnier in person than on his overly precious show. Also he spat chevre on my hands and I haven't washed them since. Nikola Tamindzic was there, drawn like a shutterbug to an event.
We sat at the press table (number 24) next to InStyle's Katrina Szish and her WASPily handsome beau Brant Stead. He has a tattoo of a skull and crossbones on his wrist! At table 25 next to us, we spotted Post dating columnist Mandy Stadtmiller. She was dateless. Next to her towering blond head was the towering black coiffure of Atoosa Rubenstein, Alpha Kitty.
Atoosa looks like a cross between Paul Bunyan and Bettie Page.
There was some tension at the table. Someone, Atoosa told us, had tried to be her friend on Facebook but was rejected. "I'm not using Facebook like other people," she said. "For me, it's only a social thing for people I've met and actually like."
Back at our table, two executives from Fairfield, Connecticut's public radio station (WSHU) were poo-pooing the fundraising techniques of WNYC.
Malcolm Gladwell's hair was somewhat less vivaciously upward than normal. He was nervous for the storytelling duel with Gopnik. We asked him about his blog and sometimes lack thereof.
"Well, I've been busy for the past year writing my next book so I haven't had the time, but now the manuscript is finished, so I'll be doing some more," he promised.
Asked by a companion whether it would ever be Livejournaly, Gladwell said, "It wouldn't be very interesting. 'I had a sandwich. I had a sandwich again.'" Fair enough!
So how did Garrison Keillor feel about being the first recipient of the Moth Award? "They want to start low and work up," he said. "It's the principle of show business."
And who did he like in the Gopnik v. Gladwell bout?
"Gopnik. I always go for the short man. It's the American way," he said.
Really? But Gladwell is such a fiesty thinker!
"He's not one of us," said Keillor. We presume he meant his UK-Canadianness. "He sounds like a character out of a Jane Austen novel."
Just at that moment, some goat cheese flew out of his mouth and landed on my hand. I tried to shake hands in a way that transferred the cheese back to its rightful owner but it didn't work out.
On stage, novelist Meg Wolitzer and Gopnick made jokes about Gladwell.
Meg: "They're making a movie of 'Blink.' Exterior Shot. Man blinks. Woman blinks. Both blink furiously as we fade out." Gopnik: "It's a short."
The moment came. Gladwell reprised a story of his about how he and William Booth had competed to work the phrase "perverse and often baffling" into the Washington Post. Gopnik went the Neal Pollack-daddyblogger route, telling a story of text message miscommunications with his son. Gopnik misinterprets LOL to mean "Lots of Love" and thusly uses it liberally during family crises. For example, "I hrd ur dad died. LOL" LOL, also LOL!
Andy Borowitz judged via applause meter, a method as reliable as a Diebold voting machine, and so the duel ended in a draw. Predicting such an outcome, the Moth had preordered two red sashes. "That way," said a Moth functionary later, "it kept us from any awkward situations with two of our favorite writers."