Q&A with Malcolm Gladwell, Author of What the Dog Saw
Fritz Lenneman: Your New Yorker stories and best-selling books are on many readers' "first read" list. Are there any writers who you are sure to never miss?
Malcolm Gladwell: I will read anything that Michael Lewis writes, as well as Janet Malcolm. And I'm a huge fan of many of the writers at the New Yorker, especially Adam Gopnik and Larissa MacFarquhar.
FL: What do you read for pleasure?
MG: Thrillers! Spy novels! I have literally read hundreds of them. I've read everything by Lee Child, Stephen Hunter, John le Carré and Daniel Silva. My favorite book of the year? Stone's Fall by Iain Pears. He might be the best mystery/thriller writer alive.
FL: In reviewing previously published stories for the What the Dog Saw, were there any that surprised you?
MG: The story that begins the collection is a profile of Ron Popeil—the infomercial king who invented the Showtime rotisserie. I wrote that almost 10 years ago and hadn't read it since. It's one of my favorites. What comes back to you, when you read over something you wrote long ago, is not the story itself, but the experiences you had while reporting and writing the story. And all of a sudden I remembered sitting in Ron Popeil's kitchen, while he made me pasta in his pastamaker and chicken in his rotisserie oven and showed me how to use his hair spray—GLH. That was one of the most hilarious and fascinating afternoons of my life.
FL: Did any reveal new lessons?
MG: There's an article I wrote back before the financial crisis called "Open Secrets." It was prompted by the collapse of Enron, and I put it in the collection because I really think it anticipated some of the problems on Wall Street in the last two years. The lesson of Enron was that the financial system was getting more and more complex, and yet those charged with understanding and regulating it were not keeping pace. We would have been much better off if we had heeded that lesson.