A Fascinating Glimpse at Gladwell
Writers have a certain amount of mystique around them. No one exactly understands the process of publishing nor how some books become bestsellers. It’s something I’ve discussed in the past in these entries about the Writing Life. Some times articles will add to our understanding and I wanted to point out an article in today’s New York Times about Malcolm Gladwell.
Possibly you’ve read one or both of Gladwell’s bestselling books, The Tipping Point or Blink. I’ve read a number of Gladwell’s articles in The New Yorker magazine and always gained some interesting insight from those diverse articles. In particular, I was fascinated with Gladwell’s insight into John Grisham’s success in this short article from 1998 on Slate. It will give you a glimpse at his skill as a writer, thinker and communicator. Here’s a key sentence in the article, “So why is Grisham so successful? The answer, I think, is that his books proceed from a perspective radically different from that of his competitors.” If you know anything about John Grisham’s background, you will understand his radically different starting point. Malcolm Gladwell picked up on it and explicitedly told the reader about it.
Rachel Donadio’s article in The New York Times helps us learn a bit more about the writer. I recommend downloading three-minute MP3 file on this article. It gives you a chance to hear Gladwell’s voice but also listen to his philosophy about business books. Frankly he’s surprised that his books are categorized as business books—because they aren’t in the strict sense that a business book helps you with a specific aspect of your business. Yet in another sense, Gladwell’s books are business books because people in business want to glean from his cultural insight about how things work. Here’s a key paragraph in this profile on Malcolm Gladwell: “And that is because beneath the social science data, Gladwell is selling something for which there’s always a market. “I’m by nature an optimist. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a story which could be described as despairing,” he said. “I don’t believe in character. I believe in the effect of the immediate impact of environment and situation on people’s behavior.”
The article provides a fascinating glimpse into Gladwell and his work.