Sunday, July 27, 2014

Malcolm Gladwell: ‘No one thinks of me as a potential terrorist any more’

The writer, 50, on board games, being pulled over at immigration and why he prefers a selfie

malcolm gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell: 'I'm comfortable with silence.' Photograph: Mike McGregor for the Observer
I have a happy name. Glad. Well. It couldn’t be more cheery and uplifting. This is not a trivial thing; it’s possibly my parents’ greatest contribution to my wellbeing. And Malcolm seems substantial: it’s not a fly-by-night, suspicious name. It’s sturdy, forthright.

If I’m recognised, I much prefer the selfie. Otherwise you have to recruit a third party, who then has to line it up and can’t work the phone. The whole thing lasts forever. Selfies is “Boom!” You’re done.

The famous basketball coach John Wooden used to always say: “Be quick but don’t hurry.” Which is perfect writing advice.

I’m comfortable with silence. My happiest memories as a child were going for walks with my father and saying nothing. I almost never felt closer to him.

When my hair was long I was pulled over at immigration all the time. This was after 9/11, when America was in a heightened state of paranoia, and they assumed that straggly hair and a desire to bomb the United States went hand in hand. Now I’m too old to be pulled aside: I’ve moved into the innocuousness of middle age, so no one thinks of me as a potential terrorist any more.

Gladwells don’t have tempers. I can’t remember a time any of us raised our voice. We’re not a high-strung people.

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