Malcolm Gladwell: ‘I deplore people who deny the extent of their privilege’

Born in England and raised in Canada, Malcolm Gladwell, 57, has written for the New Yorker since 1996. In 2000 he published The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference, the first of six bestsellers. His new book, The Bomber Mafia, is out on 27 April. He lives in New York with his partner.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I am a lifelong runner and have a runner’s snobbery. My attitude towards those who don’t run eight miles a day is socially unacceptable.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
I deplore people who deny the extent of their privilege.

What is your most treasured possession?
My English publisher gave me a first edition of John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, which is one of my favourite books of all time.

What would your superpower be?
I am not the greatest writer but I am the greatest rewriter; my superpower is rewriting.

What makes you unhappy?
Reading the newspaper.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I have an epically large Adam’s apple. Once I point it out to people, it’s all they ever look at.

If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?
The cold war. A permanent, stable crisis is much more appealing to me now than a permanent, completely unpredictable crisis.

What is your favourite smell?
My father. He smelled like no other human being that I ever met. I still have a woollen hat of his that smells of him, even though he’s been gone for some years.

Who would play you in the film of your life?
Are there any Hollywood actors as skinny and unprepossessing as I am? I don’t think there are.

Which book changed your life?
I would like to think that every book changes my life just a little bit.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I didn’t want to be anything because I don’t look ahead. Even as a kid I thought it was pointless.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Watching old track and field races on YouTube.

What is the worst job you’ve ever done?
I was a reporter for many years at the Washington Post. Although I loved every minute, I don’t think I was a very good reporter.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?
Turn-of-the-century Vienna: I would sign up to be analysed by Freud; I would hang around the great cafes and argue Marxist philosophy.

How do you relax?
I read spy thrillers.

What has been your closest brush with the law?
I nearly got deported from the US, and was not because they lost my file. I was an illegal immigrant years ago.

What song would you like played at your funeral?
Kiss And Say Goodbye by the Manhattans.

How would you like to be remembered?
As a writer who took cheering up his listeners seriously.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
That predicting the future is impossible and we’re better off just winging it.

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