#AuthorFail is a new column at BigOther. For the details on how to submit, check here.
The column looks for instances that bury achievement and redemption and genius and artistic growth and special-ness beneath the crushing failure that often constitutes the material experience of art making and so runs counter to the individual myth(s) which power our dynamic culture machine.
Take Samuel Beckett’s line from Worstword Ho!: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
This might be interpreted in isolation as wonderfully inspirational, as suitably uplifting, as a special little parable about the triumph of perseverance and human achievement hiding deep within the secret spaces of the heart.
Here, though, we look for failure-as-failure. No redemption. No #winning. Except when we sort-of break our own rule, as Mark Spitzer does below, since his book was indeed eventually published.
Still, I know Spitzer, and this is definitely an #AuthorFail. See you next week.
Eighteen years ago I had an experience that was so mind-blowing, so life-changing, so balls-to-the-wall furious that I hypnotized myself into the delusion that I had to get it down to save an old man’s life. Let’s not ask why, let’s just take that as a given. I was young, impassioned, on fire, Baby! So I grueled away, banging my head on the table, attacked that narrative 40 times, then finally captured the Blazing Madness!
The result just wasn’t commercial enough for the 100 or so presses that considered it over the next seven years: City Lights, Coffee House, Four Walls Eight Windows, Black Heron, Seven Stories, a list too painful to recall. That sucker went everywhere while I revised it another 100 times to make it more marketable till finally the life was tapped from it. No more linguistic acrobatics & innovative punctuation reflecting the whole Batshit-Crazy Bizzaro story I had to tell–this time it was to save my own life, because if I didn’t it meant I was a loser, constantly re-envisioning for nothing! Like re-re-re-re-re-rebuilding some damn sand castle every time a wave smears it. It was a hate-hate experience. Hated the piece, hated myself, hated the fact that the magic that spawned it wasn’t getting what it deserved! Hate Hate Hate for Love!
So I made it my thesis and pounded away. Installed proper tag lines, changed the “cuz”s to “because”s and sapped its soul even more. Revised it another 100 times, barely stopping for 9/11. The towers collapsed and I went back to work, fighting that bitch like a toxic squid inside myself, tentacles squirming from every orifice.
But then Black Sparrow took the bait and things were looking good for me (in the company of Charles Bukowski!). But guess what? They sold the whole enchilada to Ecco Press, sending me spiraling back to the Abyss.
I couldn’t put it down, though. I owed it to that Fucking Piece of Fucking Shit! I fought, I bled, revised another 100 times. Five more years went by. I got an agent who promised a movie deal with Leonardo DiCaprio. Worked on that for two years, revised to spec, changed the tone once again. He dumped my ass, so I got another agent. This one promised a best-seller. That’s what he did for Tucker Max. So I spent another year bending over. Rejected again! Then another agent. I fired him
By this time I was sick of those bastard bloodsuckers and figured I should shoot for a good small press. Monkey Puzzle recognized my seething genius. They put it out, did a fine job. Still, it wasn’t enough to mask the fact that after all that cum-chugging, I felt like a totally reamed, totally raped, fucked-to-death blowjob whore lying in a puddle of feces and piss after getting gangbanged for a hundred measly bucks.
That’s how I feel in my gut, because that’s what the process can do to you. Publication is no redemption, kids. Study computer science instead.
Mark Spitzer is a professor of creative writing in the Department of Writing at the University of Central Arkansas. Spitzer’s memoirs include After the Orange Glow (Monkey Puzzle Press) and Writer in Residence (UNO Press). He has translated books by Jean Genet (The Genet Translations, Polemic Press), Louis-Ferdinand Céline (The Church, Green Integer), Arthur Rimbaud (From Absinthe to Abyssinia, Creative Arts), Georges Bataille (The Collected Poems of Georges Bataille, Dufour Editions; Divine Filth, Creation Books) and Blaise Cendrars (Films without Images, Green Integer). Spitzer’s novels include Chum (Zoland Books), CHODE! (Six Gallery Press), and Bottom Feeder (Creative Arts). He has also published the following nonfiction collections: Season of the Gar (U of AR Press), and Riding the Unit (Six Gallery Press). Spitzer has published two volumes of poetry as well (The Pigs Drink from Infinity, Spuyten Duyvil; Age of the Demon Tools, Ahadada). A former editor of the legendary Exquisite Corpse literary franchise, he now edits the literary annual Toad Suck Review. Spitzer has starred in the “Alligator Gar” episode of Animal Planet’s River Monsters series and is an avid fisherman. For more information see his website at www.sptzr.net.
Davis Schneiderman is a multimedia artist and writer and the author or editor of eight print and audio works, including the novels Drain, Abecedarium, and Blank; the co-edited collections Retaking the Universe: William S. Burroughs in the Age of Globalization and The Exquisite Corpse: Chance and Collaboration in Surrealism’s Parlor Game; as well as the audio-collage Memorials to Future Catastrophes. His first short story collection, there is no appropriate #emoji—with collaborations from Lance Olsen, Cris Mazza, Kelly Haramis, Stacy Levine, Tim Guthrie, Andi Olsen, and Megan Milks—will be released in Fall 2019.
His work has also appeared in numerous publications, including Fiction International, The Chicago Tribune, The Iowa Review, and TriQuarterly.
He is Krebs Provost and Dean of the Faculty at Lake Forest College.