As I mentioned a few days ago, I spent Saturday night watching Malcolm Gladwell read from his new book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. The reading was at The Hammer, a terrific museum just blocks from my house. He packed it. Their 250 person auditorium became standing room only and, when that ran out, overflow seating was set up near speakers outside.
Gladwell's an effective, entertaining speaker. He's a short, slight guy with a rapidly-receding hairline and an enormous afro. He's clearly comfortable on the stage, and he needed no notes nor, in fact, any books. Rather than read from Blink, he told stories from it.
And that was the problem. See, Blink does not seem to be about rapid cognition at all. A better name foor the book would be Overload: How Too Much Information Clouds Our Conclusions, or Bias: How the Wrong Information Perverts our Conclusions. I guess those titles didn't focus group as well, but Gladwell didn't change the content along with the name. As it was, every story he told had to do with the elimination or addition of information. Classical musicians are better off auditioning behind a screen, Diallo's shooters should have slowed down and amassed more information, doctors are best able to diagnose chest pain when limited to the results of four tests, etc. And that's all well and good, but if any of you could think of a more basic, common-sense thesis to pack a bestseller with, I'd be pretty impressed. So while Gladwell was enjoyable, my gut, or blink, reaction to his book was right, and I won't be buying it. That's okay, from the looks of the auditorium, Gladwell hardly needs me to add on to his sales.