In Defense of Those Peculiar and Freaky

Joyce Carol Oates, in a letter to the editor of the New York Times Book Review this past Sunday, takes issue with a reviewer of Flannery O'Connor referring to O'Connor as peculiar:

Was Flannery O’Connor “peculiar” — or is this mildly pejorative and condescending adjective just shorthand for suggesting that she was unconventional, original, strong-willed and serious in both her art and her life, in a way that isn’t common in our experience? Is there any individual of distinction who might not appear to be, from the perspective of the smugly bland and judgmental, “peculiar”?


It reminded me of Tom Peters imploring people to "hire freaks." In a PowerPoint deck, he explains:

(1) Because when Anything Interesting happens … it was a freak who did it. (Period.)  

(2) Freaks are fun. (Freaks are also a pain.) (Freaks are never boring.)

(3) We need freaks. Especially in freaky times. (Hint: These are freaky times, for you & me & the CIA & the Army & Avon.)   

(4) A critical mass of freaks-in-our-midst automatically make us-who-are-not-so-freaky at least somewhat more freaky. (Which is a Good Thing in freaky times—see immediately above.)   

(5) Freaks are the only (ONLY) ones who succeed—as in, make it into the history books.   

(6) Freaks keep us from falling into ruts. (If we listen to them.) (We seldom listen to them.) (Which is why most of us—and our organizations—are in ruts. Make that chasms.)

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