#AuthorFail 4: Jeffrey DeShell

It’s Monday morning. The yawning gulf of your workweek stretches before you like a festering baby mouth. How long until the cold monotony of this unmatched abyss becomes heated, for a short moment, by the weekly report known in your heart of hearts as #AuthorFail?

Ho! The time for failure, my cubicle-bound friend, is now.

In this edition, Jeffrey DeShell’s entire career stands as one long flatline. He ignores the initial call (you too, may participate) to write about one specific failure–and so expands into the existential depths of Sartrean gloom, Keirkegaardian trembling, and Kafkaesque comedy. Yes, such writers are a sad and surly lot…yet we love them all the same.

For me, the concepts of failure and success slide easily into one another.  When I publish a novel, when I hold it in my hand, touch the cover, turn the pages, I feel like the object is both a success (in that it’s finally an object, existing in the world) and, inevitably, simultaneously, a failure.  The feeling of failure is real, oppressive, discouraging.

The novel as object marks, to me, a failure of possibilities.  The book is the (grave) marker of infinite options narrowed and drained into a shadow.  A shadow of what it could have been, yes, as all the choices taken, restricted and created by language in the translation from the perfect and luminous image/story in my mind to the (oft) mistaken and imprecise sentences now fixed on the page certainly marks a type of failure.  I once possessed something ineffable and beautiful, something I could only approach by writing.  But by writing, I destroyed that perfect image/story.  And so writing becomes the impossibility of communication; an impossibility that ruins the original image/story.  If writing communicates, it communicates only that impossibility. Continue reading

Advertisements

#AuthorFail 3: Gretchen E. Henderson

Are you a failure?

Do your loved ones turn their heads away in shame when you walk in the room or go off to “work” on your “writing”? Is the blank page better for you when it’s blank?

Ok, ok, I kid. I exaggerate.

So welcome, anyway, to this week’s installment of #AuthorFail.  Check here for guidelines to submit your own story of complete and utter failure.

Our brave cosmonaut of this week’s rocket ride is the inimitable Gretchen E. Henderson, winner of the 2nd annual Madeleine P. Plonsker Emerging Writer’s Residency Prize at Lake Forest College. I’ve been working non-stop on her forthcoming, Galerie de Difformité, a startling success-of-a-hybrid-novel, but here, in the depths of abandoned-projects-past, you are treated to her secret work of vowels.

See you next week.

For over a year, I dedicated time (including a month-long artists’ residency) to research, write, and almost complete a first draft of Ultra Sounds, an extended illustrated essay.  Using a linguistic spectrogram as its central metaphor, the abandoned book in nine chapters meditated on language, music, (dis)ability, personal and cultural identity. It began as follows:

I said HAND out loud.

I said HAZE out loud.

I said HOUSE out loud.

I said out loud, out loud, out loud.  Through 67 repetitions, I spoke sentences that varied by a single word: HAND, HAZE, HOUSE.  Almost caesuric in their mid-sentence placement, the words fed into a tiny microphone clipped to my lapel.  Over the course of 15 minutes sitting in the book-filled office of Matthew Gordon, a linguist at the University of Missouri (where I am a doctoral student in English), I articulated each sentence, followed by a short story whose phonetic similarities rolled around in my mouth each time I pronounced Dawn, Uncle Don, Dawson Street.

From the Department’s graduate student auction, I had won a Personalized Portrait of your Vowel Space, described on the inventory list: Continue reading