Malcolm Gladwell's "David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits And The Art Of Battling Giants" Reviewed
“How often do you think the bigger side wins? When the political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft did the calculation a few years ago, what he came up with was 71.5 percent. Just under a third of the time, the weaker country wins.“
So asks Malcolm Gladwell near the top pf “David And Goliath” and then he proceeds to tell us how the other 30% won and then he proceeds to tell us why they wobb. But unlike his first sociological story “The Tipping Point”, the New Yorker really has to strain to forward a moral to the story except the obvious: use your foes weakness against him and use your strengths for you. But what makes “David And Goliath” so much fun is Malcolm’s ability to make these stories almost like a detective story. It’s a fun easy read.
In “The Tipping Point”, Malcolm’s “Born To Run”, he told the same detective stories but about how memes went exothermic. By “David And Goliath”, Gladwell has reached “Lucky Town” -a pretty good album but not prime. And the problem here is some of these stories don’t feel quite honest enough. Certainly, “Three Strikes Your Art” -the law spearheaded by a man whose 20 year daughter was murdered, seems to be a wise interpretation and explanation as to why the law didn’t work (three criminal convictions and you go to jail for 25 years, with no mechanism for the severity of the law broken) whereas his writing on Northern Ireland, which he boils down to British heavy handedness, is clearly nonsense.
Still, there is a real pleasure in the way Malcolm writes; he can tell a story at a cracking pace and the way the losers win is always fun. He can make the most terrible stories, finding a way to save children from leukemia, veer from a terrible nightmare to a terrible nightmare to a success story of pioneering leukemia oncologist Jay Freireich; he experimented on children to find a cure.
This is all a little obvious, if you have ever been in a bad car accident and walked away without a scratch Gladwell’s story of the Nazi bombing of London -where instead of cowering Londoners as expected, those who survived became braver, will understand exactly what Malcolm is saying.
The academics hate Gladwell, they think he is dumbing down when not getting it all wrong, important questions about sociology but layman like me appreciate his storytelling and if he gets stuff wrong, he gets stuff right as well. I mean, David did beat Goliath, right?