Saturday, September 08, 2007

book quest

I've finished two more books in my quest to read my way through my shelves. (Woo!)

On Spice's recommendation, I finally got around to reading Blink. It's about split-second decisions, like when an expert looks at a sculpture and instantly knows it's fake, or when an orchestra's audition panel knows in two seconds that this is the french horn player for them. I had it because Malcolm Gladwell, the New Yorker writer who wrote the book, was supposed to speak at this conference I went to a couple of years ago, but he couldn't make it. So instead they sent several boxes of Blink. The book confirmed what I think about the guy - he's a fantastic writer. Beautiful, beautiful way with words. But I'm not always totally sure he has his ideas straight. (It's also possible that I'm too dumb to get his ideas.)

I actually once interviewed Malcolm Gladwell for a class. We had to pick an article and talk to the writer about how they'd done it - the reporting, the writing, what the editing was like. So I had a long conversation with him (about one of the articles that led to Blink, as it happens) as I sat outside a restaurant in the Bay Area, getting progressively later for an OAM trivia competition, and he walked down the street in New York and informed me about journalism in general and his article on facial lie detecting in particular.

Interesting - I just reread my transcript of the phone call and the things he said about writing and being edited have turned out to be very accurate.

I said there were two books, but this is plenty long enough for one blog post. More on the other book later.


Coloradan said...

I agree about Blink. (I even got it at the same conference, for the same reason!) I found it really engaging, but when I actually thought about it at the end, I wasn't sure what the overall point of the book was. We can make really good split-second decisions... except when they're actually bad decisions?

J.Po said...

I absolutely agree as well - Blink was really great. I found it really insightful, actually ... to make the point that we need to be aware of the fact that we're all making split-second decisions - some of which are very good (intuition type stuff), and some of which lead us in the wrong direction (like "subconscious" racial or gender profiling). The devil is in the details on this one - it's important to have a good filter for which is which, and be present enough in quick decision-making to know when to think twice before heading down the wrong path.

But then, it's been a long time since I read Blink.

J.Po said...

Oh - and that's really rad that he talked to you for so long! It makes me think even more highly of him! And, given that he was so accurate in much of what he said, I bet he picks up on important subtleties (which is probably why he's so good at writing about subtle "blinks").

towwas said...

Yeah, it was definitely before Blink came out...probably soon after The Tipping Point (which I haven't read). So he was less famous, but still wildly successful. But anyway, as a reporter I've found many wildly successful people who like to talk about their work. :) I spent, like, an hour on the phone with Daniel Pinkwater once. That was awesome. He told me laziness is a good attribute in a writer.