mercredi 29 octobre 2008

Reading 'Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking' and Barack's 'Dreams of My Father' in North Carolina

Charlotte, North Carolina: October 28: Following a brief Palian swing down here I remained overnight and was invited by Ms Vivian Hashwell, an interior design specialist, 46 years old, a charming divorcee, to sit among her "book club" where they would be discussing Malcom Gladwell's text Blink: Thinking Without Thinking, and, in light of the recent election, they agreed to do a hurry-up read of Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. I was chauffeured to the Tudor home of Ms. Hashwell, perched on a knoll at the end of Elm Street. Her lawn's oak tree just now was turning a blazing orange, the houses on her street adorned with carved pumpkins, driveway candles, neat piles of raked leaves. We sat in a red-carpeted conservatory in black leather couches and chaise lounge. Among the readers were Joyce Garrity, real estate agent and 35 year old mother of two, Cindy McFarlin, 42 year old housewife whose husband is stationed in Afghanistan, Ruth Gregory, 37, a guidance counselor and mother of two, and Nancy Fleming, 32 years old, a registered nurse currently attending evening college in order to go into teaching. Ad you can see, they were good enough to wear name tags, that uniquely American social tool.Guy: Tell me what is the premise of this text called Blinking.

Nancy: Blink. Well, in a nutshell, he's saying you don't need to really think in order to think.

Cindy: Not so much that, Guy. What he means is that when we first perceive something and have that gut sense, that gut sense is mostly right.

Joyce: Yes but, frankly, I found he contradicted himself. Like the Diallo example where some cops killed an unarmed black man and shot him like a hundred times.

Vivian: But his point there was that if you have a built in bias it can blur your "blink" and make you resist what your gut knows is right.

Cindy: I think that cop example also meant is that it doesn't mean our instincts are always right. But like the Woody Allen example where the guy gets ready for years to audition and then Woody Allen just looks at him straight away and says you're in.

Ruth: Oh speaking of Woody? Did you see the movie Vicky Christina Barcelona? There's a lesbian scene in it! Penelope Cruz, oh la la la, did you see it Guy? It's set in Barcelona.

Vivian: After he ran off with that sixteen year old daughter of his I couldn't take him anymore. Ugh.

Ruth: Oh but it's a gorgeous movie. The settings! Oh!

Guy: This is no surprise to me. Americans tend to think that it is Paris that is the decadent capital but Europeans know it is Barcelona. The prostitutes are, how you say, tour guides there.

Vivian: Oh I visited Madrid once on business but I heard the same thing. Ladies, can we stick to the Gladwell lest Guy here think we are a bunch of nattering hens?

Joyce: I thought he made a good point but really I felt like mostly he was telling me what I already know: go with your gut.

Guy: I wonder if this title is not a slogan sort of, like think without thinking, diet without dieting, eat without cooking, and so on?

Cindy: I disagree, Guy. Though I know where you are going. One thing that bothered me is, if this were true, how come Wall Street guys aren't filthy rich?

Vivian: Because they think too much! I once met George Soros, do you know him that Hungarian gentleman who made a fortune betting against the British pound. Well, he works in hedge funds. But--and Guy you would appreciate this--he was a philosophy student and he told me what the markets don't realize about the market is that it operates on the uncertainty principle and unless you factor that in, you tend to think markets are logical and such.

Guy: Ah, oui, Karl Popper?

Vivian: Ah so you know him?

Guy: I met him once in Swizterland, oui.

Cindy: Ok, let's not get all philosophical. My brain is mush tonight. Can we talk about Barack's book? What did you think of Barack's mother choosing that guy?Ruth: Well, she was only nineteen. I have to say I was very very impressed by his writing. Do you think he wrote this all himself?

Cindy: I was wondering that myself. But given how personal this book is I;d have to say yes. For sure. Do you have those in France, Guy, 'ghost writers' who come in and write a book for an author, or, more like a celebrity and then the author takes credit?

Guy: Ah yes I am sure these exist.

Cindy: What books have you written Guy, you mentioned one.

Guy: Well, my books do not sell many copies like Gladstone's Blinking but the one which did make me, how you say pocket change, was a memoir about my college years, Buried Alive in an Ivy League Grave.

Vivian: Oh that sounds like a frightful experience. Did you go to university in America?

Guy: No, I attended the Sorbonne but this was the title in English very different, difficult to translate in English the French title was La Vie Sorbonne, ou Ma Mort lente

Vivian: Ladies we are reading Guy's book next week. I tell you, Guy is something special. I was in a screaming throng at this Palin rally, half squashed to death and the press are really beastly, especially the men! And here along comes Guy and he saw my predicament and invited me to stand in this free space in front of him [lots of OOOOHHing follows and ladies tease and flatter Guy]

Joyce: I must say I did like Barack's book. I mean, imagine what we would write if we told thetrue story of how we felt about our upbringing. My word, I;d have a few choice words for my father and I woulnd't hold back like Barack does. Or be so circumspect. I mean the guy was a CREEP. Period. Why couldn't he just use those words? C-r-e-e-p. I really wondered about his mother getting suckered but I mean, come on. It seemed like Barack couldn't quite say what he really felt about his father til after he died. But he sort of fudges what his mother thought about this scamp.Vivian: Well the past is the past. It seems to me Obama is the type not to hold a grudge. Doesn't he talk about that? He has all these little proverbs about grudges. Now his wife, Michelle..whoa Nellie! she's another matter. I wouldn't want to cross her. I mean they talk about Palin as pitbull. Watch out, girl!

Cindy: Oh my Lord, and how blunt she was to Barack, at least when he writes about their first date... I read the other Barack book by mistake, ladies.

Ruth: Well, if we keep getting round to talking politics again world war three might re-erupt...

Nancy: Basic background Guy. Last week, while we were discussing the horrible Woodward book about Bush, Vivian and I had a huge argument, I mean it was our own kind of little The View cat-fight, wasn't it ladies?

Cindy: Amen.

Vivian: But we made up. I took her to that new Italian place on Harrington, and let's just say Nancy by her third glass of Chianti this little firecracker was forgiving my calling Barack a socialist! [much laughter]

Nancy: It was a little bit of a stretch is all. A big stretch, really.

Ruth: Ladies! Let's not go there! We don't need Guy going back to France telling how catty American women are. Guy does your wife travel America with you? Does she do the book club thing in France? Or have you French read every book under the sun already and don't need a silly club?

Guy: She is joining me on November four in New York for the finale. She is, how you say, headmaster, or Dean, she teaches psychology. In Lyon, you know Lyon?. But she does not have this book club fun. Her friends tend to prefer to play cards together.

Vivian: I wish I could meet her Guy I am sure she is a doll! You know, getting back to Barack, Guy, I am going to come clean. Only because you are here, Guy this is a scoop. Ladies, I am even thinking about voting for him. Barack. Oh lord I can't believe I'm admitting this. I mean never mind the who-would-you-want-to-have-a-beer with-test? To me it's who-would-you-want-to-go-on-a-date with, with, right, Guy? I mean do you see the way McCain kisses his wife Cindy? I mean, I have seen fish kiss with more passion.[much laughter ensues]

Nancy: I can't believe you switched after dragging me through hell and high water last week when we talked politics! [much laughter]

Guy: Ah yes. Well that would mean that you would violate the Gladstone rule to follow first instinct?

Vivian: Well, not really. It actually proves his point. I thought about McCain-Palin and tried to think my way to voting for them.

Vivian: Well my blink moment with Barack was when he won Iowa and gave that stirring speech. But I ignored that blink.

Nancy: Blink is on?

Vivian: Can you forgive me Cindy?

Cindy: Well, not to tell stories out of school but I got an e-mail from Craig in Kabul who said at least half his brigade sent in absentee ballots and....even he voted for Barack.

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