I had dinner tonight with The Malcolm Gladwell, and I say “The” like David Letterman says “I like The Doritos,” as if he’s a household name, because, well, he (Malcolm) kind of, sort of… is. (My mom told me to say to him for her.) He’s the guy with the big hair that wrote Blink and The Tipping Point and writes for The New Yorker. He is long-time friends with a friend (Ann and husband Chris) and she was kind enough to invite me along to a dinner. He’s in the area speaking today with Atul Gawande, another literary idol (he wrote Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science) and several other great New Yorker pieces.
So I’m kind of totally geeked-up excited about meeting him as it were; and he’s, like, pretty normal. Felt totally comfortable talking to him (the wine helped), and he was great to talk to. He’s interested in health care, so that definitely helped too; I find myself with less and less ability to relate to anything non-medical. I explained my cognitive dissonance theory to him, it being my latest theory to try to figure myself out, and the night progressed through health care reform, when it will happen, how it will happen, and even a little debate on Medicare Part D and the pharmaceutical industry. Although I still don’t fully see eye to eye with him on it, he convinced me on some points, and I’ll admit I didn’t know that generics were significantly cheaper here in the US. He also has an opinion on when health care reform will take place in the US, but I don’t want to spoil it if it’s his next article. We also talked about board game strategy, the UK version of The Office, and I ended up doing my terrible Cartman impression.
I think I’m infinitely envious of his job (or maybe more Atul’s–if I could read and write on fascinating things, plus do medicine, that’d be the ultimate), but, like a lot of things, it’s probably less fun when you have to do it as opposed to doing it for fun. I think one of his greatest strengths is his ability to take the everyday experience, make sense of it, find some data behind it, and explain all the facets of it. It’s almost like he writes things that you agree with on almost a “gut instinct” level, but then explains your gut away. (Me, I’m trying to lose my gut.)
And the kicker? I email Ann back after the evening thanking her for the invitation, and I get a great one-liner back:
Subject: to sum it up
malcolm gladwell loves you.
(Me? Big head? Never.)