This weekend was one of my favorite events on the snooty Manhattan liberal calendar: the New Yorker Festival! It's that one weekend where you can turn your solitary magazine habit into a smug social gathering of your socioeconomic and demographic peers: it's just you and a bunch of young people in black plastic glasses and old people in socks and sandals, sipping on wine and laughing at Sarah Palin. This year we went to two events: the political roundtable and a lecture by Atul Gawande.
First, we went to the political discussion featuring Hendrik Hertzberg, Ryan Lizza, Jane Mayer, and moderator Dorothy Wickenden, down at City Winery. When we were there, we ran into an old friend of mine I hadn't seen since a New Yorker Festival event in 2007. The political conversation was interesting although a little predictable. Some woman asked a question about Afghanistan and she spoke in such a halting, gasping way that it sounded like she was about to cry. Another old lady in a funny hat asked a weird, non-political question that had nothing to do with anything. I wanted to ask about how the Republican party can pull itself together, but I didn't. At the end we saw Tate Donovan, which was exciting, and I got Hendrik Hertzberg to autograph my copy of his book, which made me feel like a huge nerd. I felt like such a chump lugging his book around beforehand. But he seems like a very sharp, intelligent, good-humored guy, and I wished I had more to say besides the usual praise and platitudes.
Today we went to a lecture by Atul Gawande on similarities between the construction of skyscrapers and the practice of medicine -- focusing on the use of checklists to bring different disciplines together instead of relying on one master builder or physician. It was interesting, but I felt like I had already read the article that was the basis of his discussion, and also, I found it a little bit boring. But that was more my problem.