Jim Newell at Bookforum:
It’s hard to defend a thesis that there’s some sort of worldwide philosophical understanding of the nature of underdogs when all you present is a handful of underdog stories of all types, from across the span of human history. That reinforces the notion that underdogs are still just underdogs; it’s just that occasionally some prevail and get written up in the local paper.
And Gladwell, the cad, seems to know this. He’ll tell someone’s story and then, near the end of it, write something like, which isn’t to say that everyone who sees their father get shot in the face as a child and is born with ten types of cancer will end up running the largest corporation in the world.
Consider his section on dyslexia, introduced by a pair of sentences that would certainly have to be the nadir of Gladwell’s, or any writer’s, career: “You wouldn’t wish dyslexia on your child. Or would you?” He gets to the “no” eventually (just as he does in the section about whether it’s desirable to have one of your parents die in childhood). In between are stories about the famous trial lawyer David Boies, Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn, and Hollywood producer Brian Grazer, each of whom is dyslexic and, according to them, used that challenge as a motivator to sharpen other, nonreading skills.