#Author Fail 16: Wendy Walker

Good riddance, failures.

Today ends this column, at least in weekly form, which for the 15 weeks past has detailed a series of missteps, blind alleys, redirections, redactions, and lessons never learned. Ok, I know, many of the writers in this space and its readers have intimated lessons, although this was never my intent.

To paraphrase the call for the column, this investigation of failure is not mean to add to the narrative of redemption constructed from hindsight, which in all is bespectacled glory reifies traditional notions of Authorship (the development over time, the mastery of headspace).  No, the idea here could be that failure can be valuable (or useless) in an of itself–as an articulation of the limits of writing, or our ambitions, of our egos.

Thus, while you may take a warm glow from all of this, don’t overlook the dark pall. On that note, we let Wendy Walker, one of my favorite writers in the tradition of constraint, feel the stage crook pulling her prose from the stage.

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My Man & other Critical Fictions

In the years following 9/11 I found myself feeling an urgent need to grapple with the issue of war. I chose as my subject the quintessential war of story, the Trojan War.  It had key female figures, both mortal and immortal.  The work would be a novel centered on three points of view, those of Helen and Paris, the conflict’s relatively clueless catalysts, and that of Athena, who plans and orchestrates the destruction in order to test a number of her new inventions.  I would call the novel The City Under the Bed.

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#AuthorFail 15: Jeff Bursey

Welcome, dear failures, to the penultimate #AuthorFail…super-hero edition.

My Schnide-y sense is tingling, and it says this column will soon go the way of the dodo. Until then, let us revel in our ineptitude.

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The Shadow. The Spider. G-8. I thought of these pulp heroes on seeing the first Burton Batman movie, and as I regularly walked to work in 1989-1990 I wondered if an audience, keen on the revamped Batman, would be interested in the Spider once more. The violent stories about him often contained traces of masochism and sadomasochism, as well as insane opponents. (He could be a bit mad also.) The 1970s paperbacks of those three figures were around the house when I was growing up, and later I read Phillip José Farmer’s ‘biography’ of Doc Savage. These memories combined with the re-visioning of Batman to give me the idea for an adventure story primarily set in India and Tibet that would link G-8 (mad from his war battles) and his twin half-brothers, who eventually would become the Shadow and the Spider. The pre-story explained a bit of what they’d done in WWI, what happened to them in the 1920s, and how two of them emerged, 45s blazing, on the side of justice (though not always the law) in the 1930s. (G-8 didn’t get out of the 1920s alive.) In 1993 I finished writing Pulpseed, and sent it off. Continue reading

#AuthorFail 14: Greg Olear

The Beast Rises (well, not really).

Dare we call this a triumph against evil?

Until next week….

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My Brain Is Full, my first completed novel, concerned the creative frustrations of a pretentious twenty-two-year old college junior—no big shock, as its author was also a pretentious twenty-two-year old college junior.  I printed up a bunch of copies of this masterpiece, shared it with (generally receptive) friends, and otherwise basked in the glow of what was my first literary success; although the New York editor I sent it to passed, saying the book “showed promise” and encouraged me to keep writing.

For my sophomore effort, I decided to undertake a more ambitious project.  Babylon Is Fallen was conceived as a Gothic novel, a work of horror that would draw heavily on Biblical allusion and End Times prophesy.  I dreamed up most of the plot during a summer working at McDonald’s: a college student would knowingly spread the AIDS virus around the small campus (which had actually happened a few years earlier at a college in my home town).  His motive?  He believed he was one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, whose job it was to bring the plague.

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#AuthorFail 13: Debra Di Blasi

Welcome back, my friends, to lucky #13. My good friend and publisher, Debra Di Blasi, speaks best for herself.

Go failure!

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Seems everybody has a memoir these days.  Seems I’ve been trying to have one for years.  Like an egg that won’t drop.  A stuck turd.  The opposite of purgation.  Ah, yes, shit. Indeed, allow me to remain scatological for a few words longer.

I’m not constipated about my past, my many lives lived large. No remorse, no regrets.  Neither the drugs nor the booze, neither sex nor abortions, neither mobsters nor terrorist(s), neither poverty nor wealth, disease nor health, Jesus nor Buddha nor nothing that cannot be and everything than might…  Failure to complete a memoir – four memoirs, to be exact – is for me a failure to apologize.  Failure to apologize is a failure to demand revision. Continue reading

#AuthorFail 12: Stephanie Strickland

Ring the bells, sort of.

Stephanie Strickland is a wonder of compelling poetic investigations. Experiencing her works–try “slippingglimpse” for a quick fix–is only slightly less exciting than having coffee with her.

In either setting, she’ll offer a series of interconnections between things that appear to have no interconnection, so that rising from the table after the event places you thick into edges of a spider web, one that has been woven around your table and one that has now trapped you, sticky and glued, to its gossamer edges.

And so, here, Strickland delights us by doing the opposite of what she normally does. Here, the web is woven, bright and clear, but it catches only itself in its word glue.

Sure, this #Authorfail is three times the length of the guidelines, but if anyone deserves the right to fail for so long, it’s Strickland.

See you next week, and the weeks of this column are rapidly waning.

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Proto-Collaboration with Potential Collaborator:  A Digital Poem In Prospect 

Stephanie:  I want to make a work of e-lit based on the mathematics of jingling (bell change-ringing).

Potential Collaborator (Jeremy Douglass):   I’m unclear right now on whether you are interested in authoring a specific work of e-literature based on the mathematics of change-ringing, or looking to produce a kind of change-ringing media player within which many works might be authored.

Stephanie:  I want to make a specific work of e-lit, but my sense is that programming the system for it would be in some sense equivalent to programming the “machine” or media player for it. I want to explore various kinds of historic “changes,” to see which would really work as a literary project. That’s not something I can know ahead of time without playing with it first. I find it is not so useful to explicitly define a whole project from the top, and so there is always a kind of negotiation going on with the programming, which in the best cases is a kind of back-and-forth. I envision a textual instrument on which many works might be authored and played.

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#AuthorFail 11: Roxane Gay

Welcome, fellow duds, also-rans, has-beens, and cast-offs.

I had followed Roxane Gay’s intriguing online posts over the recent years, and somehow stumbled upon the fact that she teaches at Eastern Illinois University. Delighted by this relative proximity to my Chicago-area enclave of Lake Forest College, I invited her to join a panel on publishing (given her work with PANK) and to give a reading will fellow Illinois writer William Gillespie (Spineless Books).

Their performances in early 2011 were anything but failures–both inspiring and strange and suggestive and absurd.  Anyone who has encountered Roxane, I imagine, has had a similar experience.

And so, it seemed appropriate to ask her, here, in the most unsuccessful corner of the internet, to discourse on the failure, the complete failure, that stands in such stark contrast to the Roxane I have seen mesmerize an audience the way a flickering candle might entrance a small child.

I have always liked the idea of thematic collections. For my MA thesis, my original idea was to create a collection of stories about motion titled (E)Motion. I was young and felt terribly clever. All the stories would be about people living on the road or dealing with unstable situations, always moving toward things or away from things. I planned to write about Mormon missionaries, truck drivers, flight attendants, traveling strippers, and migrant workers, which I hoped would give way to some kind of eloquent statement about displacement, movement and emotion. Alas, that didn’t work out so well. I spent more time thinking about the thematic approach than the stories themselves so I ended up doing something quite different–though I did end up writing a couple of road stories. At the time, I was so proud of my (E)Motion title, but I am pretty mortified by it now.

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#AuthorFail 10: Laura Goldstein

Um, well, this is embarrassing: if you checked this post this morning between 9 am – 9:26, you would have found an incomplete entry: devoid of this snappy opening, and truncated, it the main text, from its full form.

Could it be that #AuthorFail has had its first fail?  Would this then equal success.

I feel miserable, I mean happy…I mean, well, something else.

As Jean Francois Lyotard notes in The Inhuman, the sun will burn out one day.  Thus, all human activity is under the sign of this eventual catastrophe (no, I don’t think he considers widespread space colonization). I wonder if the sun will fail in its great and final task, to burn into nothing.

When you look into the sky today, enjoy the steaming ball of ambivalence–before that, enjoy this serious failure of a column from Laura Goldstein.

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