I have just learnt there are two kinds of journalists: those who start out with an obvious subject and find something interesting to say about it, and those who go in search of topics that are way outside normal experience. Malcolm Gladwell, author of the viral bestsellers The Tipping Point and Blink, and now Outlier, is of the former. Which is to say in a dilettante’s lexicon, he’s states the flippin’ obvious and then cleverly makes you think he, as well as you, have had a new thought when in fact what’s been captured is zeitgeist.
I, too, can play that game. Let me expound.
Geniuses such as Einstein didn’t rise from nothing. Fact: they were once children with mothers and fathers.
Look through this list of writers and see if you can spot the anomaly? Dylan Thomas, Dylan Thomas, Dylan Thomas, and Dylan Thomas.
You probably missed it, so let me point it out to you. Fact: writers who are boozers can be as successful as boozers who are writers.
And Gladwell has written this about those who succeed over those that go to weed: “It is only by asking how much they sucked on the nipple as a baby that we can understand the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t.”
Didn’t Freud come up with a similar theory but with potty training and cigars?
What’s with this pop theorist, behaviouralist? Just because he has a knack for bringing to the most overworked subjects an element of intellectual surprise doesn’t mean that the rabbit that’s pulled from the magician’s hat is more likely to succeed than the wild rabbit that’s dragged from its burrow by the poacher’s terrier. The trick is whether the gregarious, plant-eating mammal procreates or not.
What is it that makes Gladwell so damn successful? Is it all to do with the fact that he’s an interdisciplinary cross-dresser and that then makes him a metrosexual, across-town vehicle for discourse?
I was caned as a student by my headmaster and that’s what makes me such a good verbal acrobat. I’m also good with creativity. But very bad about studying. I’m also good when it comes time for my sadist hour.
My parents helped, too. My mum liked to shout and curse. Sometimes I got a hot welt and liver and onions. My dad liked to look disappointed. So shattered, in fact, I always thought he had some secret illness. He didn’t. It was me.
If I met Gladwell, I’d ask him this: “My failures are based on which of the following? The bloke in the cape or my rabbit who drowned in the pond?”