adam gopnik

The journalist’s vice

“I looked for the large in the small, the macro in the micro, the figure in the carpet, and if some big truths passed by, I hope some significant small ones got caught. If there is a fault in reporting, after all, it is not that it is too ephemeral but that it is not ephemeral enough, too quickly concerned with what seems big at the time to see what is small and more likely to linger. It is, I think, the journalist’s vice to believe that all history can instantly be reduced to experience: (‘Pierre, an out-of-work pipe fitter in the suburb of Boulougne, is typical of the new class of chômeurs…’) just as it is the scholar’s vice to believe that all experience can be reduced to history (‘The new world capitalist order produced a new class of chômeurs, of whom Pierre, a pipe fitter, was a typical case…’). … The essayist dreams of being a prism, through which other light passes, and fears ending up merely as a mirror, showing the same old face. He has only his Self to show and only himself to blame if it doesn’t show up well.”

—Adam Gopnik, Paris to the Moon

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