Adam Gopnik

Adam Gopnik

Past Event: Wednesday, March 2, 2005

At Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

Literary Arts Icon

Literary Arts

Sponsored by Christianson O'Conner Kindness, PLLC.

A writer for the New Yorker since 1986, Adam Gopnik has come to be known as one of the preeminent, wittiest, and most charming interpreters of contemporary life writing today.

His recent essays have tackled subjects ranging from the state of New York department stores (“like luxury liners becalmed in a lagoon”), to menus of long-gone restaurants (“a lovely paper monument to hope”), to busyness (“our art form, our civic ritual”). But before New York, there was Paris. For five years, he and his family lived in this city of myth and history, of bureaucracy and beauty, and for five years he chronicled their daily delights and exasperations to suggest larger truths about France, America, and culture in general. From these essays he compiled the bestseller Paris to the Moon (2000), which has been described as “the finest book on France in recent years.” His most recent accomplishment was editing Americans in Paris: A Literary Anthology (2004), a compilation of three centuries of writing about Paris.

Born in Philadelphia, Gopnik grew up in Montreal where his parents were both professors at McGill University, and from which he received a B.A. He received an M.A. from the Institute of Fine Arts. His work for the New Yorker has won both the National Magazine Award for Essay and the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting. Gopnik lives in New York City.

Excerpt from Paris to the Moon (2001)In Paris explanations come in a predictable sequence, no matter what is being explained. First comes the explanation in terms of the unique, romantic individual, then the explanation in terms of ideological absolutes, and then the explanation in terms of the futility of all explanation. So, for instance, if your clothes dryer breaks down and you want to get the people from BHV–the strange Sears, Roebuck of Paris–to come fix it, you will be told, first, that only one man knows how it works and he cannot be found (explanation in terms of the gifts of the romanticized individual); next, that it cannot be fixed for a week because of a store policy (explanation in terms of ideological necessity); and, finally, that you are perfectly right to find all this exasperating, but nothing can be done, because it is in the nature of things for a dryer to break down, dryers are like that (futility of explanation itself). “They are sensitive machines; they are ill suited to the task; no one has ever made one successfully,” the store bureaucrat in charge of service says, sighing. “C’est normal.” And what works small works big too. The same sequence that explains the broken dryer also governs the explanations of the French Revolution that have been offered by the major French historians. “Voltaire did all this!” was de La Villette’s explanation (only one workman); an inevitable fight between the bourgeoisie and the aristocrats, the Marxists said (store policy); until, finally, Foucault announced that there is nothing really worth explaining in the coming of the Reign of Terror, since everything in Western culture, seen properly, is a reign of terror (all dryers are like that).

Selected WorkAmerican in Paris: A Literary Anthology (2004) (editor)Paris to the Moon (2001)

Links“Times Regained,” an article from the New Yorker by Adam Gopnik 

Review of Paris to the Moon

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, the largest event space at Benaroya Hall. 

Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

By Car

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5 via Westbound I-90
    Take the 2C exit for I-5 North. Follow signs for Madison Street/Convention Place and merge right onto Seventh Avenue. Turn left onto Madison Street. Proceed three blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue four blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Public Transit (Bus & Light Rail)
Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).

The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. Blink charging stations are available for electric vehicles. The event rate is $16.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.


Open Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where a captioning screen displaying the words that are spoken or sung is placed on stage. This option is present at every event at Benaroya Hall in our 2019/20 Season.

Assisted Listening Devices (ALDs) are devices that people with hearing loss use in conjunction with their hearing device (hearing aids or cochlear implants). Benaroya Hall has an infrared hearing system, which transmits sound by light beams. Headsets are available in The Boeing Company Gallery coat check and the Head Usher stations in both lobbies.

Sign Language Interpretation is available upon request for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing individuals. To make a request for ASL interpretation, please contact us at or 206.621.2230×10. Please note: we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure interpretation.

Wheelchair Accessible Seating and Accessible Restrooms are available in all sections at our venues, and our venues are fully accessible to ticket holders with physical mobility concerns. Guide and service dogs are also welcome. Among other features, Benaroya Hall has designated parking spaces adjacent to elevators in their parking garage. Elevators with Braille signage go to all levels within the Hall. A unisex restroom is also available. For more details on their accessibility features, click here.

We are pleased to offer these accessibility services at our venues, and they are provided at no additional cost to ticket holders. Please contact us with any questions and feedback about how we can be more accessible and inclusive.  Our Patron Services Manager is available at, or Monday-Thursday from 10:00am – 5:00pm, and Fridays from 10:00am – 1:00pm, at 206.621.2230×10.