The Real Work: On the Mystery of Mastery

Product Details
$30.00  $27.90
Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publish Date
6.33 X 9.29 X 0.92 inches | 1.08 pounds

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About the Author
Adam Gopnik is a staff writer at The New Yorker and has written for the magazine since 1986. He has three National Magazine awards for essays and for criticism. The author of numerous best-selling books, including Paris to the Moon, he lives in New York City.
[J]oyous and insightful . . . Through observation and deduction, Gopnik grasps much about the meaning of mastery . . . [Gopnik's] unusual analysis of expertise and accomplishment includes his own charming moments and can-do attitude.--Tony Miksanek "Booklist"
Via memoir, analysis and criticism, [Gopnik] assembles a celebration of the flaws that make us human . . . Gopnik is at his most moving when addressing the limited time we have on Earth; the roughly established number of heartbeats we are given to achieve whatever means most to us. In this context, he writes, mastery may have nothing to do with impressing some great portion of the public; instead, what counts is ourselves and a few people close to us. Mastery, he concludes, is 'emphatically not transcendent.' Instead, in Gopnik's conception it is thoroughly democratic--something we all can achieve, and in many cases already have.--Matthew Cantor "The Guardian"
Gopnik is a writer with a keen, warm eye and a generous heart. In The Real Work he draws attention to what he calls the 'asymmetry' of mastery: 'we overrate masters and underrate mastery, ' he says . . . Gopnik is such an affable guide, truthful about his own foibles, that the reader is happy to reflect with him . . . Near the end of The Real Work he conquers another terror, a very private one; that he reveals it, and shares his process, his setbacks and triumphs, is extremely moving. The joy of this book is its honesty. 'The real work' is a term magicians use to define who's really got the chops. Gopnik may not be able to handle a deck of cards, but he is a magician, all the same.--Erica Wagner "Financial Times"
Gopnik is consumed by the business of shaping sentences, and in The Real Work his dabbling in new skills, and observing those who've mastered them, unsurprisingly offers a way of reflecting on his own vocation . . . Among the uplifting pleasures of Gopnik's writing is the range and ardour of his enthusiasms. If his only truly fanatical pursuit is making sentences, he seems to intuit that his best ones--his truest--are those that are unselfconsciously committed to their subject, and vitalised by the passionate curiosity that also reins them in.--Lola Seaton "New Statesman"
[F]ascinating . . . because of the fluidity and incision of his prose, his ranging interest and knowledge, his capacity for deploying profound koans with casual verve . . . one of Gopnik's salutary aims here is to demystify--and democratize--mastery.--Tom Vanderbilt "Washington Post"
Charming . . . some of its pleasures are Gopnik's excursions into professional jargon--he takes his title from magicians' shoptalk--and techniques . . . a collection of axioms defining what we might really mean by 'mastery' begins to crystallize for Gopnik . . . it's lovely to see these rules emerge from a random assortment of disciplines--for instance, in the way the reader gradually discovers a structure of repeated sequences common to jazz, magic and boxing . . . The book's final axiom is its most profound, all the more so for also being unexpected . . . The true mystery of mastery, he speculates, may be found not in a technique that must be learned, but, rather, in the infinitely renewable moment of performance.--Adam Thirlwell "New York Times Book Review"
Perhaps you'll recognize Adam Gopnik from his cameo in Tár; perhaps you've read one of his many articles or books before now. His latest book, The Real Work, explores what it means to be at the top of one's field, and finds Gopnik exploring professions from driving instructor to dancer to see what it means to be great at something. It's a thoughtful and thought-provoking look at what it takes to become skilled at a certain kind of work.--Tobias Carroll, InsideHook, "The 11 Books You Should Be Reading This March"
Gopnik, a longtime New Yorker critic, isn't the first author to emerge victorious from the American tournament of achievement only to discern its spiritual emptiness. But his contribution to an antidote feels original, and mercifully within reach. We need to refamiliarize ourselves, he thinks, with the profound and enlarging experience of truly mastering things, or at least attempting to do so . . . wise, companionable, and often extremely funny.--Oliver Burkeman "The Atlantic"
Like Malcolm Gladwell, Gopnik makes even the seemingly workaday or mundane compelling . . . Gopnik's book is aptly named, being his own exemplary example of the essayist's craft.--Bill Thompson "Post and Courier"
A tour de force . . . In a similar vein as Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, Gopnik's book approaches the art of mastery of singular skills with the diligence of a researcher, the soul of a philosopher, and the heart of the everyday man.--Shannon Carriger "Portland Book Review"
A masterful speculation on the nature and art of mastery... Gopnik's intelligence gleams on nearly every page... like Malcolm Gladwell, he has a gift for forging connections and making even the seemingly mundane compelling. In top form, Gopnik makes his subject intellectually and viscerally thrilling.--Kirkus Reviews, starred review