Carole Cadwalladr has figured out that if you get people talking they will implicate themselves in selfness. This will involve—especially among those who have found success in this complicated world—multiple particulate selves housed in a single vessel. People, in other words, will contradict themselves with the ferocity of Whitman. But don’t you see? It’s the contradictions that constitute the human being. Catch me if you can, every subject says—and Cadwalladr can’t, so she shows us the flight. So much more interesting! Her method brings to mind an answer Keith Richards once gave when asked if he liked Mick Jagger. Sure, he said, Mick’s a great bunch of guys. To help us along, Cadwalladr adds shade every now and then, sometimes a dash of color. Perspective, if you will, from her sensible seat. A sentence following some grandiose claim might calmly begin Well, actually… And then, gently, the facts. For instance when Black Swan swami Nassim Taleb gets busy defining himself by all he is not rather than what he is, in the process dismissing the importance of money as only a millionaire can, Cadwalladr delicately interjects “Hmm, well, up to a point.” She’s like a canvas: some paint takes better than other paint. Lay it on too thick it chips off.
Cadwalladr is from Wales and writes with precision about everything from the vagaries of English intonation to drugs and technology in Ghana. She’s written a novel called The Family Tree. If you want to find out about yourself—or yourselves—you might see if she’ll interview you.