Blink Again

Catherine Bennett writes a critical review of Blink by Malcolm Gladwell in The Guardian:

Anyone who has suffered under the Atkins regime may feel familiar with the faintly hucksterish, overly-helpful tone of Gladwell’s introduction. “You’ve bought this book, haven’t you?”, Dr Robert C Atkins demands those of us who did, indeed, pay for the cramps and stinking breath which are the legacy of his New Diet Revolution. “How long did you first hold it in your hands?” is Gladwell’s question for the people who bought Blink. “Two seconds? … Aren’t you curious about what happened in those two seconds?” With his brazen brand-repetition, over-familiarity and unlikely visions of the new, improved life that awaits the Blink alumnus, the younger guru repeatedly echoes the literary style of the late dietician, who liked to goad fatties with glimpses of the glorious rewards of dietary compliance: “My goal is to make you become a healthy and happy person and to show you how to stay that way.”

Gladwell, from his loftier perch, on the staff of the New Yorker, is no less eager to anticipate doubters, the better to prod them towards enlightenment. Can instant reactions really be inculcated? Most certainly. “The power of knowing, in that first two seconds, is not a gift given magically to a fortunate few. It is an ability that we can all cultivate.” And if more of us did it, Gladwell believes, “we would end up with a different and better world”.

But what’s in it for him? This is not, admittedly, a question one would routinely put to an eminent contributor to the New Yorker, but his salesmanlike pitch is apt to elicit a matching, customer-like suspicion. Perhaps Gladwell simply believes that endless reiteration of Blink’s brilliant, life-changing potential is essential if it is to live up to his last bestseller, The Tipping Point, and thus enhance his new career as the unworldly, barefoot thinker the business community really trusts.

More here.