A public Wiki for McKinsey blogs

I found out recently – through the Wiki set up by Shipriya Mahesh for eBayers’ blogs – that many of my eBay colleagues and former colleagues are bloggers. No surprise here: we live and breathe the Web every minute of our lives, it is only natural that many of us use blogs to discuss business, start-ups, Web trends or personal opinions.

I wonder, though, how many bloggers there are in the community of consultants and alumni from my previous employer, McKinsey. Fewer, I guess, since the Web isn’t the bread and butter of the profession; yet, there are many sharp and opinionated individuals for whom I imagine that hashing out ideas in the public domain would be enormously stimulating. So, with a few minor variations (mainly concerning password sharing), here’s the McKinsey Blogs Wiki. Are you a former McKinsey colleague and blogger? Please add your blog to the list, and post about the Wiki in your blog!

A short story by Delmore Schwartz: In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

I’ve always been quite fond of the short story form; whether it is because short stories can pack an emotional punch you (as a reader) can enjoy in one sitting without getting distracted by ordinary life getting in the way, the way it does when you’re trying to finish a novel, or because the writerly part of me thinks “Hey, maybe I don’t have a novel ready to be put on paper, but I can sure write something like this”, I don’t know. I do know, however, that years ago I was left dumbstruck by the title story in the collection In Dreams Begin Responsibilities and Other Stories by Brooklyn poet and writer Delmore Schwartz. This is an angst-ridden and brilliant story that I would not be able to write; more precisely, I could try to write something like it, but it would come out derivative and contrived, just like it would if someone tried to reinvent Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony”.

Schwartz’s story, recounts his biographer James Atlas in the foreword to the collection, was published in 1937 in the first issue of the Partisan Review:

Those of us who read it at the time really did experience a shock of recognition. […] Many people I know remembered the story long after forgetting everything else in the issue. We were charmed by the story’s invention, though this could hardly explain the intensity of our response, since you didn’t have to be a New Yorker, you could as well live in London or Singapore, in order to admire Schwartz’s technical bravura. Still, it was the invention — the sheer cleverness of it — that one noticed first. A movie theatre becomes the site of dreams; the screen, a reflector of old events we know will be turning sour. The narrator watches father propose to mother at a Coney Island restaurant. Already, during the delights of courtship, they become entangled in the vanities and deceptions that will embitter their later years. But what can the audience do about it? The past revived must obey to its own unfolding, true to the law of mistakes. The reel must run its course: it cannot be cut; it cannot be edited.

Schwartz died alone in a midtown Manhattan hotel in 1966, an alcoholic writing hallucinatory stories in an “impossibly diffuse” style, and left several incomplete novels behind. Against the danger “that his work will be brushed aside as he himself becomes the subject of a lurid cultural legend” (again, as James Atlas puts it), even after the tributes Lou Reed and Saul Bellow have paid to him in their work, you can only do one thing: read his stories. “The rest is pain, gossip, regret, waste.”

Shameless self-promotion: my face in the Stanford GSB’s newsletter to applicants

Check it out here: I’d answered Stanford’s request for a picture and comments months ago, and forgotten. Today, in meeting a candidate with my Alumni Interviewer hat on, I was surprised to find that he was excited to meet me because of reading about me in the newsletter… like I was some sort of celebrity. Lots of fun.

The Accidental Masterpiece: a vintage photograph I found

I am not a big hoarder of mementos and family lore. Yesterday, however, I was prompted to dig out this picture in reading Michael Kimmelman’s book, The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa, which has a chapter devoted to a brief social history of photography and the many masterful photos that survive to today even if all information about their authors and subjects has been buried in the dust of time.

I absolutely love this photo. I don’t know who the people pictured here are (my father’s extended family, perhaps?), where they were (my guess would be somewhere in Northern Italy), and when the picture dates from (hard to tell from prevailing fashion and accessories, it is perhaps the early 1950s, but it could be earlier or later). I love the clarity and the definition of the figures’ reflection in the lake or the pond. I love the diagonal horizon line provided by the slope. I think the photographer was absolutely brilliant. It is a small but treasured possession, one of the few photos I haven’t parted with since I was a child. Do you have accidental masterpieces in your drawers, too?

At Shipriya’s request, happy to…

… point you to her public wiki listing blogs by current or former (well, mostly former: apparently when you’re working your ass off, you have no time to blog) eBay employees: eBay Blogs. So, colleagues, if you’re reading this, here’s your de-lurking moment: go and add your blog.

I was also wondering how many bloggers I would find from my previous employer, McKinsey. Any ex-colleagues out there? Please let me know, I can start a public wiki of McKinsey and ex-McKinsey consultants’ blogs – wouldn’t that be great?

How fun is Neil Gaiman? A riot, if you ask me

I’ve started reading Neverwhere, a hallmark Victorian fantasy. It is actually a lot of fun. (I know I am writing somehow below my standards for literary criticism, but forgive me, I went to the movies yesterday to see David Lynch’s INLAND EMPIRE, and spent quite some time afterwards trying to figure it out, so allow me to be somewhat less intellectually rigorous here). Back to Gaiman: while his writing isn’t generally sexy, I find his gems to be where there actually is some erotic tension, like in “Somewhere in America”, the story about the ifrit taxi driver in American Gods, or in the second half of “Keepsakes and Treasures”, a story in Fragile Things where he imagines a whole population of ugly old women supporting themselves by periodically raising a male child to become the most beautiful boy in the world and selling him into prostitution, to keep the tribe going for the next century or so on the proceeds of the sale. Imagination is a wonderful thing, and Gaiman has so much of it that it’s (again, apologies to critical standards) a treat to read him.