Category Archives: Talent Is Not Enough

Women’s Work

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I tend to be kind of an observant person, a good character trait for an ethnographer. But I don’t always know how to turn it off, and my wife occasionally says that I’m sounding like Andy Rooney, which is a gentle way of saying that I should be quiet for… Read more »

Intellectual Genres

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I was at a writers’ conference a few years ago, in a session led by an acquisition editor from Penguin. (Don’t you just love the idea that the publisher is called Penguin, by the way?) Anyway, she was telling us about the shelving codes used by publishers to help booksellers departmentalize… Read more »

The space between

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The world of the student is filled with mechanisms for identifying and rewarding talent. Talent on certain terms, of course, but talent nonetheless. We pack thirty kids into a room and we ask them all to do the same thing. Some will do it better than others. We repeat that… Read more »

Unseen Allies

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Years ago, I read an interview with John Updike in which he talked about the joy of receiving a fresh box of his new books. He smelled them. He held them in his hands, admiring their covers, turning them gently so they’d catch the light like a jewel. He opened… Read more »

Unseen Work

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I tend to mistrust “how-to” books. I think they’re too sanitized to be trustworthy, reducing complex and contextual circumstances to linear recipes. Much more interesting are the “how-it-happened” books, in which some person talks about how their amazing life got to be so amazing. Filled with stories and accidents and roads… Read more »

The Ramifications of Not Considering Luck

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The Atlantic Monthly has become one of those clubby, patrician magazines that the comfortable read to reassure themselves of their comfort. Every so often, though, they surprise me. One of those surprises is in this month’s issue, an article by Robert H. Frank called “Why Luck Matters More than You… Read more »

The Nested Bell Curves

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I grew up a huge fan of the Detroit Tigers, and thus learned to love baseball above all other team sports. Because of that, I used to read Bill James’ Baseball Abstracts, the annual geek’s guides to baseball statistics that were the precursor to the Moneyball era. In one of those… Read more »