Malcolm Gladwell, my fellow Canadian, in his youth apparently attended some weddings. Among these weddings was that of his purported best friend, Craig, to a woman named "Leigh." As he tells us in a story excerpted the Guardian over the weekend, Gladwell did not like Leigh.
Why? Well she, like many a Yoko before her, robbed him of his man friend.
... [S]he was incredibly dominating. I mean, we thought Craig had a powerful personality, but she put him to shame. She would finish his sentences. She would pay for everything. She would boss him around. Worst of all, she didn't have a sense of humour at all. She had none of Craig's wonderful, whimsical take on the world. She was the anti-Craig in many ways. I realise now, looking back with the perspective of history, that I hated her. I really did. Not just for the fact that she had taken Craig away, but because she had changed him – she had changed who he was and what he meant to me.
Now, I don't know "Leigh." Perhaps she is indeed awful. But Canadians have a tried-and-true way of dealing with awful people. We "politely" freeze them out, indicating our contempt by way of the silent treatment and light eye-rolling.
Gladwell and company chose a different route. They wrote themselves a little ditty set to Frank Sinatra's "My Way," and sang it at the reception:
[Singing.] Girlfriends he's had a few, in fact a lot, the list is endless.
But Leigh is a woman that's true. She set him
straight and now he's friendless.
He met her mom and dad, who planned his wedding along the freeway.
So Craig, he tied the knot. He did it their way.
And that's one of the nicer verses. Put simply: Gladwell was Canadian supernova rude, here.
This story, published by the Guardian, appears to have originated at a Moth storytelling event. Those events can be great fun. But the frame of personal storytelling can, in some writers, encourage a certain indifference to tone, diction (count all the "this's" in Gladwell's piece here) and you know, general powers of empathy. I would say this is an example of someone who got very very lost on his way to Endearing Personal Anecdote town. Better for Gladwell to observe a law set down by a very early editor of the New Yorker, I think:
To quote Mr. Ross again, "Nobody gives a damn about a writer or his problems except another writer." Pieces about authors, reporters, poets, etc., are to be discouraged in principle. Whenever possible the protagonist should be arbitrarily transplanted to another line of business. When the reference is incidental and unnecessary, it should come out.
I could also say a few other things about what a [insert pejorative term] here this makes Gladwell sound like. But I am Canadian, so I'll just leave it here.
[Image via Getty.]