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Lord Peter Views the Body
Dorothy L. Sayers
One Summer: America, 1927
Bill Bryson
What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures - Malcolm Gladwell I enjoy Malcolm Gladwell's books. And, overall, this one was interesting and enjoyable to read as well.

This collection of his New Yorker pieces really left me thinking, though, that it's a mistake to believe that just because someone gets to be a writer for a prestigious magazine, they know what they're talking about. Too often it seemed that he just pushed the idea/philosophy/solution of whomever he interviewed, without critically examining it. And, maybe if I were reading his pieces in the context of a magazine, with lots of other articles, it would be clear that that was all he was doing. Somehow, when the pieces are collected like this, there seems to be an implication that we should pay attention and that he's giving a serious evaluation of whatever the topic is.

To be fair, he starts out in the introduction saying that all he is trying to do is to get you thinking about things, not to convince you that he's right. And, from that perspective, he succeeded. And I did wind up, after finishing the book, saying "this guy doesn't know what he's talking about."

One piece in particular really annoyed me. A play was written, that received great acclaim, and was apparently based heavily on a book, with some statements in the play from an article Gladwell had written about the book and the subject. No credit given to the author of the book or to Gladwell. He had an interview with the playwright, in which there were apparently a lot of lame excuses - "I forgot where I got the material," "I didn't think I had to give credit to anyone else," "I lost the file with my material," and so one. He then basically gives her a pass, because it was a really good play, and because it was a different medium than a book or article, and because, after all, other people might have used the same words at other times in the past.

To top if off, the woman who originally wrote the book (about her experiences) was portrayed in the play as having had an affair with the subject, which was complete fiction. She was upset about this, since apparently it was fairly obvious that the play was based on her work and her experience and friends who had seen the play contacted her and told her that there was a play based on her work - so she was identifiable. Gladwell felt that she was unreasonable to be upset about this, because after all, the play was fiction and it wasn't about her, just about a character based on her.

Hmmm....wonder if Gladwell would feel the same way if someone wrote a really great play about a writer for the New Yorker (who had, of course, a completely different name) who took bribes to write pieces that spoke favorably of certain companies or consultants or experts, and in which pieces of his articles were spoken or lightly paraphrased by the character? And if his friends kept saying, "gee, that play is all about you. Is that stuff really true?" Hey, it's fiction, nothing for him to complain about.....