Sunday, September 15, 2013

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Quiet: The Power of Introverts
in a World that Can't Stop Talking
Let me begin by saying that I know it's totally unfair to review a book that you haven't read. However, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain is due to be returned to the library soon, so I took a quick look through it last night to see if I wanted to read it or not.

I don't. Let me explain why.

I read the introduction and most of the first chapter and then leafed through it, stopping to read wherever I found anything that looked as though it might be interesting. Based on that, it seems to me that we have a case of an introverted author who has way too many conflicted feelings about being introverted. The book begins with a treatment of how much extroversion is valued in our society, and how introverts are generally treated as inferiors.

Let's just say that that hasn't been my experience. I'm mostly an introvert (I think -- it's complicated) and I don't feel that my introversion has ever held me back. I have a lot of friends who would be classed as introverts. I have friends who are extroverts, who don't seem to have issues about introverts. I have never really noticed that introverts seem to be held back in business, and I worked in a car dealership most of my working life.

One of the bits I hit on in skimming is where she's addressing the issue of education and seems to believe that teachers would be surprised to learn that one-third to one-half of their students are introverts. Really? I would have thought the percentage would have been much higher than that. And I would have expected that teachers would have been inclined to overestimate, seeing that the type of behaviors that are encouraged in most schools tend to run to introversion. (Sit down and be quiet and listen. Express yourself through writing. Read a lot.)

Another bit that caught my eye was Cain's treatment of the election of 1828, in which she hypothesized that Jackson won the election, in part, because his campaign emphasized his extrovert qualities. ("John Quincy Adams who can write, and Andrew Jackson who can fight.") That caught my attention because I knew that, although Jackson had lost to Adams in the previous election in 1824, he had won both the popular vote and a plurality of the electoral votes -- before that campaign slogan had been invented. (The election was decided by the House of Representatives. The House Speaker, Henry Clay, detested Jackson.) Jackson won the election of 1828, in part, because Adams refused to embroil himself in the campaign. So I guess maybe it was introversion that defeated him, after all.

To be honest, I really lost faith with this book when I read the Author's Note at the beginning. Cain states that she "...did not use ellipses or brackets in certain quotations but made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the speaker's or writer's meaning." To me, that is such an egregious violation of scholarship that words practically fail me.

Again, I haven't read this book, so I'm not really qualified to review it. But these are my thoughts, for what they're worth.

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