Malcolm Gladwell recently published a book called David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. In it, he explores the ways that people who might be thought of as underdogs (think the shepherd boy confronting the giant) who succeed not in spite of their perceived weaknesses—but rather because of those weaknesses. In the biblical David’s case, says Gladwell, the younger and smaller young man felled the man as big as a tree precisely because David refused to fight the way Goliath wanted him to.
Later in his book, Gladwell showed how the repeated “rejection slips” received by the impressionists Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Pierre August-Renoir, and Camille Pissaro. They were constantly excluded from the great marketplace of the art of their time, the Salon.
They, too, decided to pull a surprise attack and rented their own gallery—where they were “discovered” by an adoring public that made their iconoclastic art famous.
Gladwell also relates how some of the most successful people in business, music, and other careers succeed as dyslexics who had to overcome their obstacles and turn them into strengths.
Gladwell, while looking deeply into a biblical story and later into Paul’s thorn in the flesh, sees only the weaknesses and how strong-minded people turned strengths into weaknesses. A Christian, of course, would see human will and persistence as only part of the solution. The sovereignty of God, who delights in using the weak and powerless so that He can demonstrate His power, is the key.
Nonetheless, I’ve been thinking about those Impressionists. What is the novelist’s equivalent of the Salon? What would a group of novelists do today in a correlative situation? And the will of God. . .