ranters and ravers

Thin-Slicing Malcolm Gladwell’s Critics

Reviewing Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, Outliers, is tough work, since almost every critic is a less successful author who not-so-secretly craves Gladwell’s wealth, influence, and long, curly hair. We were getting the impression that taking swipes at Gladwell-as-superstar has reached its tipping point, so we made like Malcolm and did some thin-slicing. Below, we separate Gladwell’s critics into the following categories: Prigs, Wannabes, Accountants, and Haters.

Prigs (who lovingly mock his style)

The Independent:
“A youthful 45, with an eclectic, vaguely hipster dress sense … and that signature mad scientist afro, he is a cliché of furious intellect.”

Gregory Kirschling, Entertainment Weekly:
“a poufy-haired showman”

Tim Adams, The Guardian:
“Gladwell’s gift for interdisciplinary cross-dressing once again makes it look extremely fashionable.”

Wannabes (who crave his fame)

Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times:
“In the years since his success, I have wondered — probably like a lot of other literary types who haven’t written a book that wound up on the world’s nightstands — what’s he got that the rest of us haven’t?”

Louis Bayard, Salon:
“Gladwell has positioned himself as a roving ambassador between cultural and corporate America, penetrating boardrooms and living rooms, providing bullet points for cocktail parties and management seminars…”

Heller McAlpin, Christian Science Monitor:
“Like most highly successful people, Gladwell is skilled, talented, and driven. His particular gift is the ability to see common social phenomena from an unexpected angle and to convey his insights in enormously engaging anecdotes and analysis.”

Accountants (who covet his cash)

Sabitri Ghosh, The Globe and Mail:
“He reportedly commands fees of $40,000 (U.S.) per speaking engagement and, in 2005, Time named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.”

Danielle Sacks, Fast Company
“With Gladwell’s hourly speaking fee up to some $80,000 (it was $40,000 when we profiled him)…”

Haters (who hate him)

Roger Gathman, The Austin American Statesman:
“…it’s high time for Gladwell to produce something more challenging than his beautifully executed tomb robberies of old sociology papers.”

John Horgan, Slate:
“But I still can’t help but feel that Outliers represents a squandered opportunity for Gladwell — himself an outlier, an enormously talented and influential writer and the descendant of an African slave — to make a major contribution to our ongoing discourse about nature, nurture, and race.”

Related: Geek Pop Star [NYM]

Thin-Slicing Malcolm Gladwell’s Critics