A confession: I wrote my first-ever fan letter to Phillip Lopate, upon reading his essay "Chekhov for Children" from the collection Against Joie de Vivre (Simon & Shuster, 1989). I remember exactly where I was -- livingroom, sofa, dusk -- when I read the essay about Lopate's 1979 experience directing New York City 5th & 6th graders in a Broadway production of Uncle Vanya. I was struck by how attentive Lopate was to his students and by how he was able to see them each as individuals, with unique personalities. And I was moved by how hard he worked to take his teaching cues from them.
To my delight, Lopate responded to my letter and we had a brief correspondence. Years later, I was lucky to meet and share the stage with Phillip when he joined me in a panel discussion about poetry and film.
If I haven't read everything Phillip has published, I've come close. His prose is elegant and erudite and should be studied by everyone hoping to master the essay, in all of its many forms. He's learned on just about every subject, from art and architecture, to basketball, history, poetry, and literature.
Phillip Lopate is reading on Monday night as part of the Restless Legs reading series and get this, he's reading with one of my dearest friends: writer, editor, and all around great cook Gabriella Gershenson.
I met Gabi over a decade ago, shortly after moving to New York City. She too was a relative new-comer, at the beginning of what was to become an impressive career in the world of food writing (though she writes on other subjects as well). Gabi is now a senior editor at Saveur magazine. We've had a lot of fun in our kitchens over the years, most recently when we passed an afternoon together baking rainbow cookies. You can read about our experience making latkes here.
Will I see you on Monday night at Lolita? I hope so!
ps. While poking around, I came across this film clip, from a documentary about Lopate's "Chekov for Children."