Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Malcolm's Glad to Be an Original Thinker; WRITER Malcolm Gladwell Has Been Called "The Most Influential Thinker of the iPod Generation". DAVID WHETSTONE Talks to Him Ahead of His Appearance in Newcastle

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Malcolm's Glad to Be an Original Thinker; WRITER Malcolm Gladwell Has Been Called "The Most Influential Thinker of the iPod Generation". DAVID WHETSTONE Talks to Him Ahead of His Appearance in Newcastle

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID WHETSTONE

ON THE Journal Tyne Theatre's website, the face of Malcolm Gladwell flashes up, smiling impishly between frizz of black hair and blue tie.

He's "Live on Tour!" and arrives here tomorrow. But this is something unusual. Malcolm Gladwell is neither singer nor comedian. He has been a staff writer on The New Yorker since 1996 and before that worked on The Washington Post.

He is also the author of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. The book was published in 2000 and it certainly made a big difference to him. In 2005 Time Magazine included him as one of its 100 Most Influential People.

On his own website, Gladwell says he came across the tipping point idea when covering the Aids crisis for The Washington Post. It's a term used in epidemiology for when a virus reaches critical mass, or boiling point, and starts to infect people far and wide. It is the point of no return.

He applied the tipping point phenomenon to business and other aspects of life, relating it to sales of Hush Puppy shoes and a sudden drop in crime in New York City.

"The Tipping Point is an examination of the social epidemics that surround us," he explains.

Other books followed. The latest, What The Dog Saw, is a selection of his New Yorker articles divided into three sections.

Section one includes obsessives and "minor geniuses"; section two is about theories, "ways of organising experience"; section three "wonders about the predictions we make about people. How do we know whether someone is bad, or smart, or capable of doing something really well?" The book title is from his piece about Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, whose uncanny ability to calm savage or disturbed dogs has made him a TV star.

Gladwell is an original thinker and an engaging writer. It's fun to follow him as he pursues a story, sifting and assimilating information. He takes us to places journalistic inquiry often doesn't go and draws some surprising conclusions.

In The Ketchup Conundrum he tells the story of the ubiquitous tomato sauce. He says the idea came from a friend in the grocery business who wondered why no one had ever come up with a ketchup to rival Heinz.

Something tells me Mr Gladwell has it made and he doesn't deny it when I ring him in New York for a chat.

He's in the middle of writing a book review but in answer to a question which I hardly need to ask - "Is it good working on The New Yorker?" - he says: "It's one of the last places where you can spend a long time on a story and write 8,000 words."

Curious about life on one of the world's revered magazines, I ask about his office routine.

"I don't go into the office at all," he says, inducing further envy. "I work from home because I generate my own stories and work on them myself. …

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