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John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”: A Truly American Book

I don’t know and in truth I don’t much care whether it’s the “work of genius” ! What sticks with me is that here is a book, non-political, non-…

John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”: A Truly American Book
Book Blog · Book Review · Inspiration · Malcolm Gladwell · Motivation · Pick of the Day · Productivity

Why the World loves an Underdog? David and Goliath~Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell – Book Review

Explore the power of the underdog in Malcolm Gladwell’s dazzling examination of success, motivation, and the role of adversity in shaping our lives.

‘A global phenomenon… there is, it seems, no subject over which he cannot scatter some magic dust’ 

Observer
David slaying Goliath by Peter Paul Rubens: image courtesy Pixels

What’s it About?

David and Goliath (2013) shares myriad stories of underdogs who won out against all odds. The book is about ordinary people who confront giants. By “giants”, the author means powerful opponents of all kinds~from armies and mighty warriors to disability, misfortune and oppression. Throwing out our traditional ideas of what it takes to be a success, it offers unconventional views on subjects such as downside of privilege, the benefits of learning disabilities, and how authorities should treat their citizens.

The MORAL OF THE Story

Goliath

“Am I a dog that you should come to me with sticks?”

Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath: image courtesy Rick Steves’ Travel Blog

We all know the story of David, a shepherd-turned-musician that gained immense popularity after accepting a challenge from the giant Goliath, who asked champions of the Israelite army to fight him one-on-one. According to the tale, David killed the towering Goliath using only a staff, a sling, and five stones from a brook. After the crushing defeat, David later became king of Israel and Judah himself, and took over Jerusalem, reigning between 1010-970 BC.

So the story goes, but Gladwell thinks we all have it wrong, and opens his new book with a retelling of that story. We assume that the story is about the weak defeating the strong and the mighty. But the giant has his own set of vulnerabilities ! He is huge and grotesque, which makes him slow and clumsy. He was carrying over hundred pounds of armour. David, on the other hand is a slinger, who could be deadly from distances as great as 200 yards and was lethally accurate. As Gladwell says, Goliath had as much chance against David as a man with a sword would have had against someone armed with a .45 automatic handgun.

Who’s It For?

  • Anyone looking for motivation or inspiration in their lives
  • Behind the scene stories of well known events in history
  • Anyone interested in psychology, or crime and punishment

KEY IDEAS

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

We think of underdog victories as improbable events: that’s why the story of David and Goliath has resonated so strongly all these years. However, according to the author, underdogs win all the time. Why, then, are we so shocked every time a David beats a Goliath? Why do we automatically assume that someone who is smaller or poorer or less skilled is necessarily at a disadvantage?

Image courtesy Wikipedia

One of the winning underdog, for example, was T. E. Lawrence (or, as he is better known, Lawrence of Arabia), who led the Arab revolt against the Turkish army occupying Arabia near the end of the First World War. The British were helping the Arabs in their uprising, and their goal was to destroy the long railroad the Turks had built running from Damascus deep into the Hejaz Desert.It was a daunting task. The Turks had a formidable modern army. Lawrence, by contrast, commanded an unruly band. But they were tough and they were mobile. Lawrence’s masterstroke was an assault unexpected by the Arabs. So the advantage that Turks had was a large army and weapons~which was a big advantage, but made them immobile. Meanwhile the Arabs had the endurance, intelligence, knowledge of the country, and courage.

The author points out, that for some reason, we all have a preconceived notion which defines what advantage is. The error we often make is to double-down on strength when we think that we need something more effective than what we’ve got. Yet past a certain point, extra-strength becomes self-defeating because it is too crude and inflexible. 

People who seem weak can turn out to be surprisingly strong. Don’t be a Goliath. Dare to be a David. Gladwell illustrates these lessons with a characteristically dizzying array of stories, the subjects of which range from high school girls’ basketball to child murder and the Holocaust.

Conclusion

Underdogs can overturn the odds and succeed by employing unconventional tactics . The simple moral is choose your weapons carefully. Through these stories, he explore two ideas. The first is that much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of these kinds of lopsided conflicts, because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty. And second, that we consistently get these kinds of conflicts wrong. We misread them. We misinterpret them. Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness. 

About the Author

Malcolm Gladwell is the author of six New York Times bestsellers, including Talking to StrangersDavid and GoliathOutliersBlink, and The Tipping Point. He is also the co-founder of Pushkin Industries, an audio content company that produces the podcasts Revisionist History, which reconsiders things both overlooked and misunderstood, and Broken Record, where he, Rick Rubin, and Bruce Headlam interview musicians across a wide range of genres. Gladwell has been included in the TIME 100 Most Influential People list and touted as one of Foreign Policy‘s Top Global Thinkers.

Book Blog · Oscar Wilde · Quotes

Quoting Oscar Wilde

Image courtesy HistoryNet

“The best way to make children good is to make them happy.”

Oscar Wilde

I followed his advise. I got my daughter an ebook: ‘The Canterville Ghost, The Happy Prince and Other Stories.’ It worked like a charm, like it has for generations. Witty, inspiring and charismatic. Oscar Wilde is one of the greatest of English Literature. Today, his plays and stories are beloved around the world.But it was not always so. His afterlife has given him the legitimacy that life denied him.

A Bit of History

Wilde was one of London’s most popular playwrights in the early 1890’s. Wilde is still as popular as ever today amongst academics and students alike. Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854, the son of an eminent eye~surgeon and a nationalist poetess who wrote under the pseudonym of ‘Speranza’. He went to Trinity College , Dublin and despite winning a first prize for poetry, Wilde failed to obtain an Oxford fellowship, and was forced to earn a living by lecturing and writing for periodicals. After his marriage to Constance Lloyd in 1884, he tried to establish himself as a writer, but with little initial success.

However, his three volume of short fiction, The Happy Prince, Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and A House of Pomegranates, together with his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Grey, gradually won him a reputation as a modern writer with an original talent, a reputation confirmed and enhanced by the phenomenal success of his Society Comedies ~ Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband and the Importance of Being Earnest, all performed on the West End stage between 1892 and 1895.

And now quoting Mr. Wilde

“A man’s face is his autobiography. A woman’s face is her work of fiction.”

 “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”

“Deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.”

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”

“When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers.”

“Romance should never begin with sentiment. It should begin with science and end with a settlement.”

“There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves we feel no one else has a right to blame us.”

 “Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious; both are disappointed.”

“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”

“One should always be in love. That is the reason one should never marry.”

 “The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.”

 “The one charm about marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.”

“Pessimist: One who, when he has the choice of two evils, chooses both.”

“It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.”

 “A poet can survive everything but a misprint.”

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”

“I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.”

“The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.”

“No woman should ever be quite accurate about her age. It looks so calculating.”

“One can survive everything, nowadays, except death, and live down everything except a good reputation.”

“I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.

The public has an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.

THE END

Success, however, was shot lived. In 1891 Wilde had met and fallen in love with Lord Alfred Douglas. In 1895, with his success as a dramatist was at its hight, Wilde brought an unsuccessful libel action against Douglas’s father, and lost the case and two trials later was sentenced to two year imprisonment for acts of gross indecency. As a result of this experience he wrote The Ballard of Reading Goal. he was released from prison in 1897 and went into an immediate self ~ imposed exile. He died in Paris in ignominy in 1900.