Malcolm Gladwell  

Malcolm Gladwell  

A weeklong electronic journal.
Nov. 19 1996 3:30 AM

Malcolm Gladwell  

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       I'm in a hotel room in St. Louis. Normally, I would simply say that I'm in St. Louis, except that for the past six months or so, I've been obsessed with hotel rooms--specifically, with the size of hotel rooms--since I've become convinced that there are no hotel rooms smaller than my apartment. This is now my fifth hotel since the experiment began, and the data continue to support the original hypothesis. I feel like a country squire in here. My friend Meredith, who has an apartment that is even smaller than mine, has a hilarious routine, where she provides a running narration of her whereabouts as you're talking to her on the phone, as if she's touring Buckingham Palace. ("I'm in the kitchen. Now I'm moving to the living room," and then, a second later, "I'm back in the kitchen.") I feel like I could do that here, only without the irony. ("I'm in the bedroom. I'm still in the bedroom.")
       I haven't always lived in tiny apartments. In fact my parents live in a big, sprawling house on 7 acres, and when I was just starting out in Washington, D.C., I lived in one of those big group houses, with a dining room so massive that we were able to put a pingpong table in it. But, for some reason that I can't fathom, as I've gotten older, I've moved to successively smaller and smaller places. Curiously, this has also coincided with a steady move on my part toward the political left, to the point where if my next place is any smaller, I'm likely to become a Marxist. As far as I know, there has been very little in sociological literature on the relationship between house size and ideology (or, for that matter, between size and psychological health), which strikes me as a shame, since, as far as I can tell, the only liberals left in America are educated people who live in small spaces (Greenwich Village) and poor people who live in even smaller spaces. There has to be something to this. So anyway, here I am in St. Louis, across the road from the Mississippi and the Arch, doing laps around my hotel room, and feeling a bit, well, a little bit less of a member of the proletariat than I do back home in Manhattan. I wonder if they sell Town & Country in the lobby.
       I'm in St. Louis because I'm writing a story about a psychiatrist, who's testifying here tomorrow in a murder case. This is, I'm ashamed to say, my first-ever murder trial. Back when I worked for the Washington Post--and considered myself a real reporter--my friend Bill Booth and I determined that there are only 15 different types of newspaper news stories (hurricane; bombing; plane crash; hijacking; lucky survivor, etc., etc.), and that the best way to rate reporters is to rank them according to how many of these 15 they have actually covered. As I recall, Bill was at 12, and I was at 11. But tomorrow will pull me dead even with Bill, with only, I think, "major environmental catastrophe," "heart-warming domestic-pet story," and "international diplomatic incident" separating me from perfection. But that's all tomorrow. For now, it's Baywatch and ESPN, and maybe a stroll around the room later.

Malcolm Gladwell is a staff writer at The New Yorker.