BOOKCASE : What The Dog Saw

• Malcolm Gladwell
• Allen Lane TPB
• RRP $37.00

“Good writing,” says author and New Yorker magazine columnist Malcolm Gladwell in this, his latest book, “does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. Not the kind you’ll find in this book anyway. It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think.” And that, I’m afraid, is what wins me over with this guy each time I read him. You could also add that he is, because of his skill, wonderfully accessible.
Gladwell, now best-selling author with three books – The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers – pulling royalties, has his critics. More often than not because, as with the writings of any journalist-come-social-psychologist, his commentaries can stand just so much scrutiny before the detail of his argument frays to reveal the counter-issues that, quite naturally, combine to complete the fabric of things.
Gladwell writes because, he concedes, it was the only thing left for him to do when he stuttered unsuccessfully into his working life. After trial and error academic and advertising copywriting options, he opted for journalism, first with the Indiana-based American Spectator and then the New Yorker, where he has made splendid success of his career.
The Gladwell appeal comes wrapped in his ability to tell compelling stories about often, not-so-compelling and little-known individuals, and to extract the essential interest of the idea under his scrutiny.
Where do his ideas come from? He’s not good at answering that question but believes the trick, or rather the challenge, for writer like him, and reader like you, is to convince yourself that “everyone and everything has story to tell”.
What The Dog Saw is collection of Gladwell’s New Yorker articles. You could avoid paying for it simply by downloading his writings from his website. That would not work for me. I found this great pick-up, put-down and pick-up again read. I was intrigued, surprised and frequently enthused by Gladwell’s insightfulness. How Gladwell sees things through others’ eyes – including dog’s – is what this book is about.
The book is compiled in three sections – another good reason for not simply downloading random columns from his website. First, he reveals the exploits of his “obsessives, pioneers and other varieties of minor genius”. Then he explains the relevance of several thoughtful cock-ups. Part three is fascinating for Gladwell’s potent, analytical studies of personality, character and intelligence. I loved it.

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