Monday, 17 November 2014

Bibliophilia: David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell

I fully admit to being a fan of Mr. Gladwells’s oeuvre. I waited with eager anticipation for this latest book of his, and enjoyed it. As always, it’s an engaging read that makes you consider things in a different light and makes you want to learn more.

The book explores the perceived notion that some have advantages and some have disadvantages is looked at in a different light. Could it be that people who are born without a silver spoon end up better off in some ways. Life may not be easy for them, but having the odds stacked against them, makes them adapt. Those adaptations sometimes give them skills and abilities that those born “normal” might envy.

I do have to say that while I liked the book, I wasn’t entirely convinced by his arguments. Correlation is not causation. A few anecdotes isn’t necessarily proof that privation early in life will necessarily make the person so resilient that they can surmount any obstacle. They’re interesting examples, but are any of them ironclad evidence that someone else with dyslexia can become a brilliant trial lawyer?

(On a slightly tangential note: about a year ago, I was surprised to see a photo in the Toronto Star of Malcolm Gladwell standing beside a man I had known for a long time: Bill Exley. 

I knew him as the lead singer of London, Ontario’s finest experimental noise band, The Nihilist Spasm Band. Having grown up with the kids of Greg Curnoe, I had known him for decades. A likeable oddball, who never stopped looking like a button down English teacher - which is exactly what he was - even when performing a classic like Destroy the Nations. Slacks, collared shirt, tie, sweater vest, proper haircut. And his deep stentorian voice - whether belting out What About Me? - or controlling a class full of teenagers - was a formidable thing. 

It turns that Mr. Exley was the high school english teacher of Malcolm Gladwell. And he credits him with being a looming inspiration.

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