#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.
A lot can go down in a week. Last Thursday I read a blog post by Annalemma editor, Christopher Heavener about Paul Beatty’s Slumberland (read that post HERE). I was intrigued because of the mention of two of my favorite contemporary writers, Chabon and Lethem, but also because of Heavener’s passion for Beatty’s work. Working at a bookstore gives me the very dangerous benefit of being able to order books on a whim, and this is what I did. So Slumberland got here on Tuesday and I finished it yesterday afternoon. Then I went and made sure to thank Christopher Heavener.
I just finished reading Scott McClanahan’s new collection, Stories 2. This is the kind of book that gets me amped. Well, there are a lot of books of all different styles that get me amped. But, you know.
McClanahan’s stories are descendents of Bukowski. The character “Scott McClanahan” is maybe Chianski’s cousin, stuck back in West Virginia, making it through the day, every day and more. But where Chianski was boozing and looking for women and bitching and doing it all again, McClanahan is looking at the people around him. He’s surveying the small town, and the lives within it. He’s sizing up loneliness and he’s not trying to break it, he’s trying to expose it. He’s opening that loneliness up and sucking everyone who reads his accounts right in there with the rest of West Virginia.