Sunday, October 28th 2007
In the past, small minorities remained invisible and powerless because individual members were scattered amid larger groups without any mean to communicate. Today, the tremendous growth of urban life, the internet, the balkanization of communications, and the global economy have changed all that. Small groups can form, communicate, grow, be identified and targeted therefore exercing influence and power through these new, emerging, and sometimes counterintuitive trends.
Mark Penn is the CEO of the public relation firm Burston-Marsteller and president of the polling firm Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates. He is the key advisor of Hillary Clinton for her 2008 presidential campaign, after having successefully helped her to be elected Senator of the state of New York. Microtrends (Twelve, 2007) the book he wrote with Kinney Zalesne is about these new trends which are shaping the world. "There are no longer a couple of megaforces sweeping us all along. Instead, America and the world are being pulled apart by an intricated maze of choices, accumulating in 'microtrends' - small, under-the-radar forces that can involve as little as 1 percent of the population, but which are powerfully shaping our society. (...) In fact, by the time a trend hits 1 percent, it is ready to spawn a hit movie, best-selling book, or new political movement."
Among the 75 'microtrends' described in the book, some are more interesting than others, some are relatively expected (Extreme Commuters, Stay-at-Home Workers, 30-Winkers: people not sleeping enough, etc.), some are more surprising (Cougars: women dating younger men often without a long-term commitment, Southpaws Unbound: more left-handers, Pro-Semites, Long Attention Spanners, etc.). If the number of single women in America has increased it is because "whatever the actual number of gay people may be, gay men outnumber lesbians in America by approximately 2 to 1." Based on several studies Mark Penn hypothesizes that 5 percent of US adults are gay, 7.5 million gay men and 3.5 million lesbians. "Late-Breaking Gays" are also on the rise, according to him. The number of men in america who are or were married and who report having had sex with other men is over 1.2 million. The rise seems attibutable to the increasing acceptance of homosexuality.
In the New York Times Book Review a review of the first story collection from a physician, Vincent Lam, draw my attention. "Lam is better when he emphasizes the inherent strength of his material. He is himself an emergency physician and thus brings to mind Somerset Maughan, William Carlos Williams and Chekhov - the first is a former medical student and the others doctors for the whole of their literary careers. But Lam's work fits better among that of nonfiction writers like Jerome Groopman, Sherwin Nuland and Atul Gawande. He writes what is sometimes called 'documentary fiction', providing an insider's view of his field."
As does the short mention of a book under the Editors' Choice heading in the Best Seller list section: High Season, by Jon Loomis (St. Martin's Minotaur, $23.95). A married televangelist turns up dead at a gay men's beach in a muumuu. A whodunit ensues.