When JD Salinger walked off into the rye last year, six decades after publishing a single book which could have yielded him permanent celebrity exposure, he did so with his mystique intact. Less seen than Howard Hughes, only post-mortem did we learn of his private interest in the life and works of Tim Henman. Mr and Mrs Henman too. How our reading of The Catcher in the Rye would have been coloured if Salinger had turned up on All Star Mr and Mrs over-sharing such titbits is food for thought.
Apple 'evangelist' (he marketed the Mac in 1984) Guy Kawasaki is typical of a new generation of authors for whom hermit-like withdrawal would be a personal and commercial catastrophe. Well ahead of publication, Kawasaki can be found a-tweeting and a-blogging on the theme of 'enchantment' in business, and paraphrasing his entire book on YouTube.
Kawasaki's avowed mission is to write for today what Dale Carnegie did in 1936 with How to Win Friends and Influence People. His challenge must be to overcome the scepticism which always greets this kind of self-improvement book, already apparent 70 years ago when Irving Tressler wrote How to Lose Friends and Alienate People within a year of Carnegie's publication. In 2001 Toby Young cracked the same joke.
For Enchantment is a despatch from can-do country in Silicon Valley where, Kawasaki explains, there is an expectation that anyone can try a start-up, and venture capitalists sit in wait for geeks to emerge from Palo Alto basements with software but no business plan. Kawasaki's schtick is consistent with the evangelical zeal which runs through the nation's history. Many have lost faith in salvation through the Good Book, but this kind of manual takes its place. Except, where there were parables, we now have colourless stories of how crucial deals can be won using the same push technology Kawasaki has deployed to market this book. Presentations, email and Twitter, all must be used, he argues, to 'enchant' people.
So, enchanting presentations often 'happen when I speak in a foreign city. I usually get there a day early and tour the city taking pictures of what enchants me. If I don't have a chance to take a tour, then I photograph the audience and put them in my intro slides.'
Enchanting emails are under six sentences and do not have an attachment. 'The basics are: suck up, explain what you do, prove you know what I'm interested in, and ask for something.' But it is Twitter which is 'the most powerful enchantment tool I've used in my career', where you must repeat your tweets, 'manually engage' and check out Twitter feeds such as Alltop.com, which Kawasaki has the grace to disclose was co-founded by him.
British youth would be appalled to read how he recommends the manipulation of friend lists and tags on Facebook. They loathe the idea that grown-ups are anywhere near it, let alone that the Man is spinning his promotional webs around their social networks. If Kawasaki's belief that Facebook is 'a weapon of mass construction in the hands of a good enchanter' ever became more than a threat, they would migrate away faster than a herd of gazelles.
And yet, where's the harm? One can imagine being alone in a Manila hotel dreading a presentation to the Far East and Australian division, and taking comfort from speed reading Kawasaki's tips rather than the Gideon Bible in the bedside table. Provide a MAP, he suggests, so employees can achieve Mastery, Autonomy, Purpose. And at least you'll have something to talk about with those who've read the same kind of stuff, like the way we talk about the weather, purposely neutral, empty, but not so void as to make one actually depressed.
Alongside more populist works on my bookshelf, I have another work, The Uses of Enchantment by the late child analyst Bruno. It tells how the images of fairy tales help children better than anything else to achieve more mature consciousness and to 'civilise the chaotic pressures of their unconscious'. Hansel and Gretel is a tale of anxiety about the inevitable eventual separation from parents. Bettelheim's is a lovely book, rich and persuasive. And it's about our shared culture.
Kawasaki's take on enchantment is different. This genre is like a new myth in itself, one perhaps about a civilisation where you have to keep running and shouting and telling everyone how to run and shout better even as you have to do both ever faster. Apart from the proverb that the empty vessel makes most noise, I'm not sure if we can be sure where all this is taking us. But this book is as good a manual to it as any right now.
Enchantment: The art of changing hearts, minds and actions
Penguin Books £14.99
- Paul Arnott is a writer and television producer