There are probably only two people on the planet who haven’t heard of Susan Boyle. Knowing my luck, both of you will be reading this blob so I’ll give you a quick rundown of the tumultuous events that led to her becoming the most viewed person on Youtube, ever, and the artist with the best selling album in the UK in 2009. Susan, a Scott of Irish parents, is the youngest of ten children. Until this year she was volunteering at the local church, singing karaoke and knitting socks for sailors. She is, what used to be called a ‘spinster’. It’s too bad that word is now banned in educated circles because it suits her very nicely. In her own words she’s “Never been kissed,” which, if you consider just how yucky kissing is, might not be a bad thing. But, some unkind folk might describe her as the type of person you’d duck behind the frozen produce section of the supermarket to avoid. When she strutted out on the stage at ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ in her shiny sack of a dress and her frizzy licorice candy floss hairstyle I’d not be surprised if every member of the studio audience cringed and summoned to mind an embarrassing relative they’d hate to see on national television. The strains of I Dreamed a Dream filled the auditorium, the audience gritted its collective teeth and closed its eyes and the unthinkable happened. Susan Boyle sang like an angel (Not that I’ve ever met anyone sober who’s actually heard an angel sing). The viewers, ashamed to a man to have expected so little, gave the frumpy church volunteer a standing ovation and the rest, as they say, is history. She’s a millionaire several times over and next month she’s off to sing for Abigail Bartlet at the White House.
The point isn’t merely an expression of jealousy. It’s this. When Susan stepped out onto the stage she didn’t just suddenly develop a singing voice. She’d had it for forty odd years. Her light had been kept under a wide and slightly saggy bushel but it was there. She’d just fallen off the edge of her equilibrium at what Malcolm Gladwell called the Tipping Point. There was a lot of complicated stuff in that book I was forced to skip over because I played rugby when I was young and got hit on the head a lot, but basically I think he was trying to say that there comes a time when losers can get lucky. Take Lin Ping for example. Lin Ping was born a loser. Lin Ping is a panda. The panda is an endangered specie which I suppose is to be expected of a beast with a lot of meat and few self-defense skills. Had she been born in the wild she’d undoubtedly be dead by now. But Lin Ping hit her tipping point even before she was born. She was begat by Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui at the Chiang Mai zoo and is by far the biggest celebrity in Thailand. She’s been visited by royalty and movie stars and Susan Boyle. Lin Ping has her own Facebook page and (this is true) a 24-hour reality cable channel where you can watch her sleep twenty-three hours a day. There is a very fine line between fame and being eaten by wildcats.
Writers are notorious for inadvertently slipping out of obscurity and becoming overnight sensations after years of being nobody. Raymond Chandler wrote his first novel, the Big Sleep, when he was in his fifties because his wife told him she didn’t want to be married to an alcoholic bookkeeper any longer. William Burroughs had to actually shoot his wife to stimulate a literary career. Roald Dahl had an airplane crash and wrote notes about it at the behest of C.S. Forester. The latter submitted those notes to a magazine under Dahl’s by-line thus convincing Dahl he could write. After twelve rejections, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was published because the publisher’s eight-year-old daughter picked up the first chapter and liked it. Dan Brown was discovered whilst spray painting blasphemy on the back wall of a church. (Okay, I made that last one up). The list would go on but my Google finger is exhausted. I suppose what I need to say here is, “I’m ready for my tipping point now, Mr. Gladwell”. It doesn’t take a lot of skill. Just a heavy dollop of good luck. My book falling out the back of Tiger Wood’s crashed car. The relocation of Guantanamo to the bog behind our house. David Beckham announcing that Brooklyn has already devoured the first seven Dr. Siri books and is eagerly awaiting the eighth. Pak Nam Lang Suan – specifically Jess’s oven – proven to be the core of global warming. Little things like that can make all the difference. I could rocket to the celebrity author A list. Yes, skill plays a part but it isn’t compulsory. Even Paris Hilton had a tipping point although I think a porn tape starring me might just tip me in the wrong direction.
No, I think I have to go the way of Susan. Make everyone think I’m just a frumpy, unwanted, penniless, cozy mystery writer then whip out my Bic and let the angels do the job for me. If only I could sing.