Tom Friedman Has No Assistant; Doesn’t Recognize World’s Most Famous Woman

This week in The New Yorker, Ian Parker profiles Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times columnist and bestselling author Thomas L. Friedman. The story, which is not currently online, is the latest of Mr. Parker’s killer profiles (cf., Baldwin, Alec; Clooney, George; bonobos, sexy), and is chockablock with the great scenes from the Arctic Circle to Washington, D.C., to backstage at Late Show with David Letterman.

Here’s Mr. Parker on Mr. Friedman’s working method for both his column and his book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded:

He works without a research assistant, and he writes at all times. ‘Ann [Friedman, Mr. Friedman’s wife] drives and I work in the car. So I don’t waste any time. If I’m on an airplane for five hours, that’s my happiest time. No phone calls, no interruptions.’ He wrote the draft of one chapter during a single flight, from Seattle to D.C., after a meeting with Bill Gates.

Mr. Parker describes Mr. Friedman as sometimes taking “the role of a chipper uncle in line at a barbecue,” as in this anecdote shared by Maureen Dowd, Mr. Friedman’s “closest friend on the paper” (per Mr. Parker):

‘He came back from Davos a couple of years ago, and he was in my office, and said, “Oh, you know, I sat near this woman at dinner and she was really attractive.” And I said, “What was her name?” He said, “Angelina?”‘