Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Failure of the Day: The ambient grief of his wound

At around 11 PM last night I asked Chris if he could explain to me what the word “ambient” means. I thought I knew, but the context in which I had just read it made me confused. Chris—who would have done this even if he weren’t in the last stages of Must-Make-Anniversary-Perfect Mode—ran to the kitchen, came back with a flashlight, picked up Amputee Bunny, our stuffed pal from the bed and gave me a demonstration of ambient light and explained it until I could apply it to what I had just read.

What I had just read was a line from the new Martin Amis book, Yellow Dog, which so far, is frankly wonderful. I plan to stake out the Booksmith on Tuesday evening and relive much of my Michael Stipe shame by ogling Amis without blinking for nearly 7 months. Martin Amis, as you may know, is menacingly attractive in an Oompa Loompa sort of way. (Chris wondered if he shouldn't be doing the reading in Ghiradelli Square, where he would feel more at home.) My plan is to use up my portion of the Question and Answer period to ask him to give me a cigarette because A) That is still pretty much the only thing I want to ask anybody, and B) if he were to give me a cigarette I would likely be so star struck by the thing itself that I would be in no danger of smoking it—I almost certainly would laminate it or bronze it or something.

It won’t top what I got to ask him at the Q&A the last time I saw him read, but really nothing is ever going to top quoting Deborah Garrison’s otherwise mediocre poem to him (“I will never be beautiful enough/ To sleep with Martin Amis/ Or anyone else famous”). I probably should have saved that for this Q&A but I didn’t know last time that I would have another chance and I certainly didn’t know that he would write a book prominently featuring a closed skull brain injury that positively luxuriates in gorgeous prose about hospitals and neurology. See, if only I had known, I would have had something witty and charming to say before I chloroformed him and dragged him back to my apartment to re-write most of my novel. As it is, now all I can do is bum a smoke.


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