I bought a book today that’s a gift for my cousin. But I read it first because, well, I had to ensure that the Christmas present was a good one, right? This is the second time that I’ve read a book cover-to-cover in a single day and there really is something to be said for it. Edgar Allen Poe discussed the point once when talking about his short stories: everything that needs to be said is able to be digested as a whole. (Obviously he used more words that I.)
Don’t get me wrong; for many novels it’s an absurd idea to sit down and read until you’re done. But, for me, it worked for Perfume and today it worked for Malcolm Gladwell’s nonfiction Blink.
Malcolm Gladwell is a writer, and a journalist in the best sense of the word. His work I’ve read in The New Yorker has been well-researched and entertaining without exception, although I’ve only read a handful of his articles so far. I’m somewhat dismayed to just have discovered an extensive archive that I fear may take up a lot of my time in the near future.
He is also an excellent speaker. At TED he talked about pasta sauce and the way choice and like isn’t as clear-cut as it seems. And at the New Yorker 2012 conference he talked about genius and the difference between the geniuses of today geniuses and those yesteryear. Both talks give a good insight into his intelligence, his wealth of knowledge, and his style of collecting and reporting information.
This is his second book. I haven’t read his first, The Tipping Point, but I will one day. (In fact, I’ll do a lot more reading in general, if my insatiable appetite for sleep ever slackens and my indelible desire to procrastinate dissipates.) Blink discusses, from a dizzying number of viewpoints, the ways in which our brains work in the seconds before conscious processing kicks in. “Blink, and you’ll miss it”. I won’t try and replicate his examples or spoil the more surprising results; suffice it to say that when an expert tells you their opinion on something after seemingly a split second’s though, it’s worth trusting. On the other hand, to overcome our own gut reactions to things that we judge too quickly takes a lot of training — and in many cases is impossible. Our state of mind can influence our perception — no surprises there, I guess — but to such a degree that we should never take our own opinion of things too seriously.
Blink is an engrossing read by a writer who deserves his fame. Gladwell’s compilation of a slew of seemingly unrelated stories creates a compelling spiderweb of evidence to convince me, at least, that there’s a hell of a lot more going on in my brain than I give it credit for on a day-to-day basis. The most sobering part: think too much about something and you’ll destroy your opinion of it. Hmmm. I guess what I said above should now be reconsidered!