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Pop reviews — Week of Oct. 13

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

Malcolm Gladwell

About one in three highly successful entrepreneurs — including the founders of JetBlue, Charles Schwab and Kinkos — is dyslexic.

Two-thirds of British prime ministers at the peak of the empire, and almost a third of all U.S. presidents, lost a parent when they were children.

These are among the arguments for unexpected sources of strength that Malcolm Gladwell explores in his new book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.

Gladwell, a writer for the New Yorker whose previous books include Blink, The Tipping Point and Outliers, has made it his specialty to challenge assumptions and conventional wisdom. In David and Goliath, Gladwell argues that sometimes what we think of as disadvantages can work in our favor.

There are, of course, plenty of people who lost a parent when they were young, or who have dyslexia, “who are crushed by what they have been through,” Gladwell acknowledges. “There are times and places, however, when all of us depend on people who have been hardened by their experiences.”

Emil “Jay” Freireich, a volcanic, intimidating physician — fired seven times throughout his career — played a pivotal role in the treatment of childhood leukemia. Gladwell, after taking readers through Freireich’s tragic early years, notes: “He experimented on children. He took them through pain no human being should ever have to go through. And he did it in no small part because he understood from his own childhood experience that it is possible to emerge from even the darkest hell healed and restored.”

The book fizzles out in its final section, which reads more like a history book and is devoid of the sharp commentary and compelling observations that make the earlier sections such a pleasure to read. Still, it doesn’t erase the many takeaways a reader finds in Gladwell’s latest attempt to make us look beyond the surface.

— Rasha Madkour

Associated Press

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital

Sheri Fink

When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, the city’s hospitals faced awful dilemmas. Should all patients, no matter their medical conditions, be evacuated — even as sites appropriate for housing patients safely became unavailable? As crimes of desperation and opportunity sprung up in neighborhood after neighborhood? Or should some of the patients remain in the hospitals, as power outages occurred, as medical supplies ran short, as physicians and nurses and nonmedical staff feared for their own lives? Obviously, no “correct” answers existed.

Journalist Sheri Fink decided to investigate what occurred inside Memorial Medical Center during the five most trying days of the hurricane and its aftermath. Numerous patients were not evacuated, and early indications suggested that 45 patients who died on the premises might have survived if they had been.

Fink chose to focus most intently on Dr. Anna Marie Pou, a physician who remained inside Memorial Medical Center with the non-evacuated patients. With no electricity (and thus no air conditioning) at the end of a hot, humid August; with dwindling medical supplies and the stench of urine and feces and vomit and death permeating every floor; with no clear orders from government agencies or corporate headquarters or the highest-level medical staff about what to do; Pou remained on duty, at great hazard to her health.

The central mystery of the book is whether some or all of the 45 dead patients expired because Pou — along with other physicians and nurses — intentionally ended those lives with drugs intended to minimize suffering. And if so, should the result be considered merciful euthanasia, or homicide?

— Steve Weinberg

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Days Are Gone


Siblings Este, Danielle and Alana Haim have been steadily gaining momentum with tour support slots for Mumford & Sons, Rihanna and Florence + the Machine. Their audience is mostly composed of young girls who just want to rock out without giving up on their pop just yet.

Days Are Gone, the trio’s debut album, is slick and radio-friendly, thanks to producers Ariel Rechtshaid (Vampire Weekend, Usher) and James Ford (Florence + the Machine, Arctic Monkeys). The tracks are delivered with energy and confidence and catchy hooks are easy to come by. This album is instantly likable.

Forever, Falling and Don’t Save Me are upbeat jams laced with 1980s synth guitars, while My Song 5 is gritty with its Muse-esque dark guitar licks and R&B vibe. Let Me Go is full of attitude, with the group showing off their perfect harmonies.

The album’s closing track, Running If You Call My Name, brings Haim’s anthemic pop-rock effort to a close with vulnerable lyrics and punchy vocals. These L.A.-based sisters are newcomers, but they’ve made quite an impact with this stunning debut.

— Reetu Rupal

Associated Press


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