Mark Oppenheimer is the director of the Yale Journalism Initiative and a Lecturer in the English and Political Science departments. In addition to his biweekly religion column in The New York Times, Oppenheimer writes for The New York Times Magazine, Slate, Mother Jones, Tablet, The Forward, and his own blog, Bloggenheimer. He currently lives in New Haven with his wife, three daughters, two cats, and dog, and he will gladly show you the pictures of them he carries in his wallet.
What is your favorite memory of Yale?
Freshman year, my roommate Doug and I used to host “Beverly Hills 90210” viewing parties in our room. They were key events in the social calendar of the Class of 1996.
You can’t live without …
… my girls. I am surrounded by extremely impressive ladies: my wife, my three daughters, our dog, and our cat. There was one male keeping me company, our other cat, Sowie, but he died three weeks ago. I guess I can live without him, because I am still here.
If you could meet one character from a novel, who would it be?
Who wouldn’t want to meet the Great Gatsby? The parties sound amazing. I would also enjoy having tea with India Bridge, from the great Evan Connell novel Mrs. Bridge, and I would tell her to leave Walter. And it might be fun to hang with Franny and Zooey.
If you could ask President Obama one question, what would it be?
When are you going to come out for gay marriage?
What is your favorite word and why?
“Elder.” It is from the German. It means “older,” but in English the connotation is of an older person. Hence I like talking about my elder daughter or being an elder sibling. By the way, you didn’t ask, but my least favorite word is “lozenge.” It sounds like the last thing you would want to put in your throat.
If you could go back to college now what would you do differently?
Fewer extracurriculars. I would do my schoolwork more seriously, and I would party more seriously. Both of those are worthy activities. But the Political Union was a waste of my time, as was Yale Democrats (in a state where Democrats win everything). And three of the four plays I was in were atrocious. Yale should have far fewer extracurriculars. Basically, if you are not writing for a good student publication, acting at a very high level, or doing sports at a very high level, it seems to me you’d be better off doing your homework or napping.
What’s your favorite New Haven establishment?
It used to be the Anchor, but I don’t drink much anymore. So Modern Apizza on State Street.
The most embarrassing moment of your career was …
… the time I called an editor at home at midnight to demand he change two words in an article that was about to go to press. When you are 25, you think every word you write is worth waking an editor for. At 37, you have grown out of that.
Most importantly, why is Yale better than Harvard?
I am a winter, so I look good in navy blue. Slightly less significantly, we have much better curricula for future journalists and nonfiction writers. On a final note, Yale just seems to be a happier place.