Emily Gordon was born in Boston (her mother is Canadian) and grew up in Buffalo, Madison, Palo Alto and, briefly, Oxford. She moved to New York in 1989 to attend Barnard College, become a swing dancer and get arrested for defending a garden. She now lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. After eight years as an editor and journalist writing about culture - she has worked at The Nation, Newsday, and Legal Affairs - Emily got her MFA in poetry from New York University (where she also taught Expository Writing). She runs a reading series, is working on a non-fiction book proposal, and can be found at emdashes, a blog about The New Yorker.
Why do you blog? > It makes me happy and keeps me awake. And, corny as this is, I get a chance to thank The New Yorker for shaping my life.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Every time I get an enthusiastic email. This almost never happens in journalism or, ho ho, poetry.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > A famous poet I admire, who'd been published in The New Yorker, wrote me a blistering putdown (and later apologized). I found out afterwards that this poet does that all the time! - which made me feel better.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > I still consider myself a novice blogger, so this is for me too: write shorter posts more often, link sparingly and carefully, and back up constantly.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > My family, Katha Pollitt, Arthur Danto, Dennis Donoghue, Stuart Klawans, Mary Gordon, Richard Leakey, Margaret Sanger, Walt Kelly, Virginia Woolf, Johanna Drucker, George Orwell, Marianne Moore, Murray Kempton, Pauline Kael, Jonathan Schell, Chris Lehmann, E.B. White, Patricia Denison, Tim Clinton.
What are you reading at the moment? > On the subway, two books about New Yorker history - Brendan Gill's Here at the New Yorker and Ben Yagoda's About Town. Next to my bed, poems by Patrick Phillips and John Cotter, the '40s children's book The Hundred Dresses, and Savage Beauty, a biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay.
Who are your cultural heroes? >Hildy Johnson, Auntie Mame, Jane Austen, Theodore Roethke, Lynda Barry, James Bond, Matt Groening, James Laughlin, Edward Gorey, Preston Sturges, Pete Seeger, Anthony Trollope, Sharon Olds, Richard Hugo, Woody Allen, Emily Dickinson, Richard Matthews, W.B. Yeats, Billie Holiday, R. Crumb, Jeeves, Satyajit Ray, my great-grandmother Dorothy Gordon, James Joyce, Robert Lowell, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Galway Kinnell, Bob Dylan, Harold Brodkey, Lorrie Moore, the Brontes, Daniel Handler, and the makers of the great American songbook.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > The Queen's Gambit, by Walter Tevis.
What is your favourite poem? > The George Herbert poem that begins 'Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back'.
What is your favourite movie? > His Girl Friday.
What is your favourite song? > This minute, a tie among the Decemberists' 'Shiny', Skeeter Davis's 'I Can't Stay Mad at You', and Louis Armstrong's 'You Go to My Head'.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Studs Terkel's Working, which I discovered in an attic as a child. I learned that there were other people in the world besides teachers and writers, and that it was wrong for teachers and writers not to tell the stories of these people.
Who are your political heroes? > The great union leaders, civil rights heroes, feminists and gay rights pioneers. And - though this is a grievously unpopular opinion punishable by stoning - Ralph Nader was the first living political figure to inspire me to an ecstatic feeling of motivation. I'm not saying I wish he were president now or that he managed his campaigns well, but I think the Democrats were anti-democratic to attempt to repress his ideas in 2000 instead of incorporating the best of them.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Universal, free and top-notch healthcare - including birth control education and abortion (which would become magically less prevalent) on demand, and well-staffed detox clinics for addicts, alcoholics and smokers. With guaranteed transportation to all of the above. (This goes for the rest of the world too, by the way.)
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Nuclear proliferation. George Bush too, of course, but if warheads aren't disabled we won't be here anymore to dicker about party politics.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I think about this a lot. We can't be sure there is a future to human civilization, so I try to focus on the positive sides of the current one. There's a lot of ugliness to it on its face, but there are many small good things, as Raymond Carver would say - unrecorded moments of personal gentleness and bravery that keep me from giving up on the human race entirely.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > I don't suggest using me as a role model. But I'd say, to girls especially, don't waste all your time thinking about how things will look, read or sound to boys. Make something compelling of your own instead.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Open-mindedness.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Smugness and snobbery.
What is your favourite proverb? > 'Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.'
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Working out in gyms, and then talking about this incredibly boring subject the rest of one's waking hours. I'm not excited about exercise that can't happen outdoors.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Picture Alvy Singer in Annie Hall explaining that the universe is expanding and some day it will break apart and that will be the end of everything, and you've got my general state of mind. That Brooklyn is not expanding (well, it sort of is) is no help.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I'd never even taste heavenly, delicious meat. I'd learn to dance earlier, and I'd never burn bridges.
What would you call your autobiography? > An older editor friend always said she'd call her memoir Life TK. Mine's a quote from my 12th-grade history teacher: She Is an Intelligent Girl and She Means Well.
What would your ideal holiday be? > A month or, even better, a summer on Lake Memphremagog in Quebec.
What is your most treasured possession? > A wooden jewellery box designed and built for me by my late grandfather, Thomas Montgomery. He was a judge, but his passion (and genius) was woodworking.
What talent would you most like to have? > I'd like to be able to place where anyone in the world was from after hearing them say one sentence - like Henry Higgins. For conversation and human-knowledge purposes only, of course!
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > The early New Yorker writers as a group - Benchley, Thurber, White, Woollcott, Nash, Parker, Perelman...
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > A.J. Liebling, Margaret Mead, and my sister Kate. And the young Marlon Brando for dessert.