The Real Work by Adam Gopnik [8/10]

Two reading pleasures intertwine with The Real Work: On the Mystery of Mastery: the superb, muscular yet careful prose of Adam Gopnik, long one of my favorite essayists; and the book’s storyline of Gopnik investigating the mysteries of mastery, both through research and through learning various new crafts and activities. He goes to art classes, he learns to drive, he deeply investigates the work of magicians, he takes up dancing. His overall thesis on mastery is refreshingly complex, and I’m not sure I really grasped it, but what I took away is a few notions: mastery comes from deep practice of simple subsidiary tasks, i.e. learning scales; it’s okay to aim for less than perfection (I’m familiar with this, readily calling myself a “bad birdwatcher,” even after years of effort); the attempt at mastery is the real pleasure; and true mastery efforts are raw and physical, rather than over-thought. The Real Work is an unlikely book that might struggle to find an audience, but if you are curious and enjoy fine reading, I commend it to you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *