What does it take to get ahead in America? Something more than plucky adventure stories
David and Goliath:
Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
by Malcolm Gladwell
$29.00 List Price
IF YOU’RE READING Bookforum, it’s most likely because you want to learn the keys to success. How do I make the big bucks, the winning connections? Where do I find that inner animal that will spur me on to fast cars, loose women, and eventually spoiled-rotten children and existential misery? It’s harder than ever these days to get ahead. But some do. Who are they?
To Malcolm Gladwell, best-selling author of what he terms “intellectual adventure stories,” it’s easy enough: You just have to nearly get bombed, lose a parent as a child, have dyslexia, be less talented (but secretly more talented!) than your competitors, or go to the University of Maryland instead of Brown.
Wait, what? you say, just as the author wants you to. It’s all so very counterintuitive in Gladwell’s telling; now pay up if you want to learn the truth.
Gladwell’s latest everything-we-know-is-wrong best seller, David and Goliath, accomplishes an underdog feat itself: It’s an entire book written in the same obnoxious teaser language that appears on the cover flap. “David’s victory was improbable and miraculous. He shouldn’t have won,” this promo copy reads. A paragraph break. Then: “Or should he have?”
Things don’t get any more challenging, or illuminating, inside. “David and Goliath is a book about what happens when ordinary people confront giants,” Gladwell writes early on. “By ‘giants,’ I mean powerful opponents of all kinds—from armies and mighty warriors to disability, misfortune, and oppression.” Not only does our champion wordsmith intend to describe metaphorical giant-facing—he means
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