A Fountain of Genius

Ben Fountain

First Texas Monthly calls him the next big thing, and now the New Yorker’s Malcolm Gladwell (of Blink and Tipping Point fame) is calling Best of Dallas novelist Ben Fountain a new kind of genius. Some geniuses are born more or less fully formed, Gladwell writes, and others, like Fountain, bloom later in life.

Fountain worked in real estate law and was good at it, but after a few years he decided he wanted to quit and write fiction. In his first year, he sold two stories. Before long, he had a short story published in Harper’s. And then he hit the jackpot with a collection of short stories called Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, which got sensational reviews and marked him as a rising star in the literary firmament.

As Gladwell writes, this all has a familiar ring to it. But what makes Fountain’s seemingly overnight success unique is how long it took. Fountain is about to release his first novel twenty years after he quit working as a lawyer. He took the literary world by storm at age 48.

So maybe this makes Fountain a new kind of genius. Gladwell has built a franchise on coming up with new ways of looking at the world. Sometimes he’s right, and sometimes he’s not (look where Bush got following his gut instinct, which is more or less the advice of Gladwell’s Blink). But either way, we agree with Gladwell on one point: Fountain is a genius. --Jesse Hyde