#AuthorFail 1: Mark Spitzer

#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.

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Must be the Season of the Gar

cover for Mark Spitzer's Season of the Gar

Mark Spitzer’s new Season of the Gar (University of Arkansas Press) is a travelogue into the world of ancient garfish—those prehistoric “monsters” that in their alligator gar variety look like something out of PT Barnum or an older mythology. These misunderstood fish—which can grow to twelve feet long and a century old—have been hunted for both sport and for purposes of genocide.

Misperceived as a “trash fish” for centuries, the gar become, in Spitzer’s fascinating book, a figure for the cultural constructions of their greatest predator: man. Equal parts fishing adventure narrative, ecological ruminations, and Gonzo journalism, Season of the Gar will make you care about things you’ve never even thought about before.

You can find Spitzer, and the gar, in clips from an episode of Animal Planet’s River Monsters:

Spitzer always has a lot to say—how can the editor of the Exquisite Corpse Annual and former writer-in-residence at Shakespeare and Co. in Paris not?

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