Mar 13, 2009, 06:33AM

The comfort of explanation

Malcolm Gladwell's pursuit to recalibrate conventional wisdom—that is, if he can convince you he's right.

A tough but fair review that comes down on the negative side:

Explanation of the kind that Malcolm Gladwell specializes in is evidently reassuring. The point of explanation is to make the world seem more intelligible. T.S. Eliot said that humankind cannot bear too much reality, but in a secular age it seems able to stand mystery even less. In his books Gladwell nicely eases the mystery out of life by informing his readers how, as he understands it, the world really works: And it works, if he is to be believed, quite rationally, if one will only stop and think about it. The happy news is, if you find Gladwell's various explanations persuasive, not only are the clouds of mystery gone but the sunshine of infinite promise glows in the sky high above. Everything depends, of course, on whether you find his explanations genuinely persuasive.


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