What is it with businessmen? Every week I read the Sunday Times Business section in case there’s anything relevant to the book trade and invariably end up reading the profiles of top buisnesspeople. Even if I can’t be bothered to read the whole article, I always look at the inset that lists their favourite book, film and piece of music.
Without exception, the taste of our captains of industry is awful. It’s somewhat gauling to discover that someone who earns £700,000 a year thinks that Forest Gump is the greatest film ever made and likes reading Jack Higgins (when they’re not busy listening to Chris Rea). These are people at the top of their profession, so why are their intellectual horizons so limited?
Even the managing director of Waterstone’s, Gerry Johnson, seems to know very little about books. You could argue that he doesn’t have to. He is a very astute, intelligent retailer and in the two years since he joined HMV Media, Waterstone’s has reversed a decline in sales and significantly improved its net profit. But I still find it strange that Britain’s largest book chain is run by a man who reputedly confused Kerouac’s On the Road with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
What is the answer? I suspect that it lies in the personal qualities that make people succeed in the business world. Today’s top executives are largely 'Type A' personalities, not given to the sort of self-doubt or reflection that draws an individual towards philosophy and the arts. They may be highly intelligent, but somehow their critical faculties rarely compel them to question the meaning of what they’re doing.
I still find it hard to understand how anyone remotely intelligent can enjoy the latest Jeffrey Archer novel, but some people seem to compartmentalise different areas of their life. I have known people with IQs over 150 who would happily go and see the latest Jean-Claude van Damme movie and come out thinking they’d had a good evening.
What's it all about, Alfie?