Monday, July 19, 2010

A Flash in the Pan

Some of you might recall "Careers" the old board game in which you start off setting a goal for yourself, particular amounts of money, fame and happiness, and then win by reaching it. There's a handy dandy score card to let you know how the old career is doing:

Well, my husband excavated this game from his childhood home early this summer and we've been playing it.
Careers Board Game
Sort of a lot.

I find I am big on the happiness goal. Also money is nice. (Living hand to mouth for a few hard years taught me that happiness is much harder to come by without the comfort a little money provides. Also nice not to have the electricity turned off on you every few months.)

Fame? eh. I have a student who had a brief brush with YouTube "stardom" earlier this year and he says notoriety gives you "the itis" in a sort of disease-like need for more. An perhaps this is the case. I just don't know what I'm missing.

Regardless, "Careers" got me thinking about fame and how odd and unpredictable it is. What makes something (a Freakin' Old Spice commercial, for example, or "I write like" application...) "go big" while a much more substantial, interesting, unique, offering (say, a PBS special or something) enjoys an audience of a maybe few thousand?

The literary world is chock full of this sort of thing. Why The Da Vinci Code? or The Lovely Bones? Or Jonathan Livingstone Seagull? Are these "big" books products of luck alone? Or is there a clear and predictable reason for their sudden and skyrocketing success?

Malcolm Gladwell in his book Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference explores the sociological aspect of this question. I haven't read this book (yet) but Wikipedia tells me that "The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts." [p33] He goes on to describe these super-influential folks as "Connectors", "Mavens" and "Salesmen".

I will certainly update this post once I have read this book.(Sure sounds interesting!)

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

But for now, it seems to me that things just resonate.... or they don't. There are millions of Vampire books but for whatever reason Twilight meant something to a whole lot of someones. (Maybe those darn Mavens had something to do with it!)

And of course, there are all those One-Hit-Wonders! If they don't bring to mind a weird, fleeting and arbitrary synchronicity, I don't know what does.

How else can you explain this:


1 comment:

Ariel Swan said...

Interesting post Perri - it does seem like some people just catch lightening in a bottle some how.