But Can Malcolm Gladwell Explain the Barack Obama Phenomenon ?

Malcolm Gladwell made both Time and Newsweek issues this week and was featured both for himself and his new book “Outliers“. Outliers, subtitled “The Story of Success” follows the the basic approach of his other bestsellers, The Tipping Point and Blink, which started the current best-selling genre termed as “pop economics”. Although his books go well beyond economics to encompass sociology, psychology, science and politics. He seeks to explain the story behind the story.

Outlier is a noun which refers to: 1) something which is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body and/or; 2) a statistical observation that is markedly different from the others of the sample. By this definition Gladwell is an outlier, and it makes sense for him to write about other outliers, or those people we usually consider as extraordinarily “successful”, whether they be lawyers, nuclear physicists, rock stars, Silcon Valley billionaires or best-selling authors.

Typically, his explanation for their success is counter-intuitive, or different from what conventional wisdom says. Exceptional achievement is less about intelligence, ambition and other personal qualities than environment, opportunity and, yes, plain dumb luck. Continue reading “But Can Malcolm Gladwell Explain the Barack Obama Phenomenon ?”


David Sedaris is Engulfed in Flames

Of creativity, that is.

Actually the title of his new book is “When You Are Engulfed in Flames”, the latest in his collection of first-person essays on his unconventional life. Quite apropos, as he has been described as a “furnace of creativity” when working on a book.

I discovered Mr. Sedaris by accident, when Powerbooks was giving away free books as a promo to loyal customers during the annual Manila bookfair and I received a copy of “Naked”. Sardonic and offbeat, I find Sedaris’ writing a cross between Mark Twain and Haruki Murakami, satirical and surreal snapshots of life as lovable loser, in the mould of Woody Allen. From pictures, he even resembles a youngish Mr. Allen.

I missed seeing him at a public reading and book-signing at Powerbooks Greenbelt two years ago. I didn’t know who he was then, and I was there for another book launch, scheduled earlier in the afternoon. They were ushering us out early to make way for Mr. Sedaris and I didn’t linger. Sayang. It would have been a treat to see and hear the man behind the stories. Continue reading “David Sedaris is Engulfed in Flames”