The books Bird by Bird and David and Goliath, by Anne Lamott and Malcolm Gladwell respectively, provide their readers with many new ideas and ways of thinking about the world around them. They also allow for certain opinions to be created or changed, and are powerful tools altogether. Because I have learned to look at things from multiple perspectives, and not to always rely on my first instinct, I will be rationalising both sides of Thomas Hardy’s statement. “A story must be exceptional enough to justify its telling; it must have something more unusual to relate than the ordinary experience of every average man and woman.
Storytelling is such a broad and infinite form of art that what Hardy implies simply cannot be completely true. For the extraordinary must first arise from the ordinary, just as all the complexity of humans has not developed within decades, or even centuries, but in millennia. Our language, art, scientific knowledge and everything else that defines us have all progressed from a very simple past, just as writing itself. However, with all the tools and knowledge we now possess, it is true that in order to be noticed and admired, our writing and its various forms have had to adapt to become more interesting and exceptional.
And while some things may seem boring at first, they can so easily evolve into a bright and beautiful story unlike anything imaginable. Lamott captures the essence of writing and stories very well when she talks of the polaroid analogy. “You can’t- and in fact you’re not supposed to- know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing” (Lamott 39). She understands the fact that if you want to write, and write with meaning and purpose, you will have to learn and discover things along the way, for you can never know all that you will write before you start to write it.
So perhaps you begin your story with a general concept, or as Hardy may call it, ordinary. That doesn’t matter, because that is not the goal of your writing. It will, however lead you to find the more unusual aspects that you meant to get to in the first place, so that first step is absolutely necessary. it is what will get you started, which will lead you to create an amazingly intertwined story with depth and meaning It is interesting to note that, while Gladwell doesn’t talk about writing, he puts a very high price on the importance of speech, which can be very similar to writing.
The only way to appreciate the threat that the Viet Cong posed was to actually listen to what they had to say- to look past the armor and see the man” (Gladwell 288). Why would anybody care what some militiamen had to say in a war when you had the bombs? That’s just like asking why someone would write about regular men and normal events. They do it because it is important. Maybe it doesn’t seem like it. Maybe some would be too preoccupied to give it any mind. But men, and also writers, like Konrad Kellen, saw more to it than that.
If Kellen had not looked deeper into the problems that he saw, then it is possible we could still be fighting to this day. They were not going to give up, ever, and Kellen understood this in a way that Goure simply could not. This is an impressive thing to do, because so many people get caught up in what seems important, and what society values, instead of trying to see the deeper meaning of things, and what they could create. While it is incredibly important to focus on what things can become, we cannot forget why we write in the first place.
It is to inform, intrigue, and excite. But most of all it is an attempt to change others in one way or another, and especially to change yourself in the process. And to be an exceptional story, this is one thing that is necessary. “For some of us, good books and beautiful writing are the ultimate solace, even more comforting than exquisite food” (Lamott 108). Writing is so important for this reason. If you can write a story, and make a positive difference in the life of one person only, then it was worth it.
Along with music and science, and perhaps food, writing is a universal language. Nothing else speaks to people like literature. It gets people through the hard times, it really helps and it can provide serenity and distraction from whatever is negative in your life. This fact in itself is enough to classify most works as exceptional, and I agree with Hardy. Stories do have to be exceptional to make an impact on others, so the right book is everything Another reason we write is to make people think in different ways.
This is the major goal of David and Goliath. Gladwell worked towards making his book special by doing just thatchallenging the way people look at basic and complex advantages and disadvantages. “If I’d gone to The University of Maryland, I’d still be in science” (Gladwell 63). Because Caroline Sacks decided that she was guaranteed to do better at Brown, a much larger and more prestigious school, she eventually dropped out of science altogether to pursue easier undertakings. She was a genius, sure, but then again so was the rest of her class.
So she dropped out, which is a result which would never have been likely to happen at another, smaller school. What Gladwell intends to show his readers here is that we do not always understand what is and what is not advantageous. That simple lesson could easily change the lives of thousands of people, and that is but one of the many stories and lessons he uses in his book. This is true value in a novel. This is what makes things exceptional, and this material is why Hardy believed anything short of it was useless.
Why wouldn’t he think that? Within a week, I learned to look at the world in an entirely new way, and that is a priceless piece of knowledge that I have received through literature. These two novels have the ability to drastically change the way that people think about the world, and they are the sort of works that Hardy believed to be useful and powerful tools. They have melded the basic and pure into new and amazing things from which we draw knowledge and interest, and that is amazing.
Then again, they also understand the importance of the everyday actions experienced by the men and women we see in our lives. Without these people providing us with the basis of all stories, there would be nothing exceptional to write about. And these people can, as they often do, surprise us and become something wonderful out of what seems normal. Lamott and Gladwell successfully reminded us about why we tell stories, why we write, and why we should look at things differently from time to time.