CBC Massey Lectures: On the road with Adam Gopnik

CBC Massey Lectures

This year, the CBC Massey Lectures celebrates its 50th anniversary with bestselling author and New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik. Adam's theme for the 2011 lectures is Winter: Five Windows on the Season.

Adam GopnikAdam has now completed his Massey Lecture tour across Canada. The lectures will be broadcast on Ideas from November 7 to 11, 2011. Before the final stop in Toronto to deliver "Remembering Winter," Adam sat down with CBC Books to reflect on the experience.

Adam's tour of Canada had scheduled stops in St. John's, Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Guelph, Edmonton and Vancouver. He said that hotel rooms and airplanes became the dominant reality of his life, but added that you can still experience a city out of the corner of your eye. Citing Malcolm Gladwell's blink theory, Adam said this "blink experience of the cities turns out to be very rich [and] unforgettable."


As for the audiences, Adam said they had all been very warm but also very different. "Every audience is different, and audiences have a kind of collective intelligence that's very striking, and you feel it," he said.

We enjoyed Adam's city-by-city observations so much, we're sharing them in full:

"Montreal was a sort of homecoming audience. They were glad to see a local boy back, and it sort of didn't matter what I said. The audience in Halifax was a very discerning audience, very much kind of like a CBC audience -- they came to learn. The audience in St. John's was waiting for me to finish so that they could talk themselves, and they didn't so much  ask questions as just tell stories, their own winter stories. "Hey, do you know about my Uncle Billy Bass?" and then they would get to talking about an uncle who was an explorer. The audience in Edmonton, it was on a university campus, so it naturally had a sort of university intensity, but you felt that they were taking notes mentally, and the questions they asked were very on point. And then Vancouver was more West Coast genial. And so each of the audiences was different. And of course my performance differed from place to place, and isn't always the same, or always as good, or always good at all. But it's been startling to me how much, how different each city has been."

Were you in one of the audiences on his tour? If so, do you agree with his observations? Please share your 2011 Massey Lecture experience in the comments!

The Massey Lectures are a collaboration between CBC Radio, House of Anansi Press and Massey College at the University of Toronto. Through this partnership, the Massey Lectures are delivered across Canada, published in a book, broadcast on radio and released on CD and iTunes. For more information on how to attend a lecture, listen to the broadcast or pick up the book or CD, visit the Massey Lectures website.

For more coverage of the Massey Lectures on CBC Books, visit our archives.

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