Hello, Failure

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

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Failure of the Day: Glorp

At just about the last possible moment Sunday afternoon, I discovered that David Mitchell was going to be reading at the Book Shop Santa Cruz on Sunday evening. I’d missed his Cloud Atlas tour to my great dismay, so I was desperate to catch him this time around. We drove down there—a mere half hour away!—and had a nice dinner before strolling through their cool little downtown to the bookstore. Santa Cruz…who knew?

I’m only about 100 pages into Black Swan Green and it’s taken some getting used to. I’d even written the first half of a blog entry detailing my failure to be dazzled by it. (To be fair, I determined the failure to be mine and not his.) It’s much more traditional and straightforward than his first three books—it’s the story of a 13-year-old boy with a stammer. 1,001 Mortifications he called it, with his own stammer in ever so slight evidence. And then he proceeded to read sections from it that made me float away on an ocean of my own sighs. In fact I was struck so utterly dumb by it that I could not even manage to glorp my adoration onto him while he complimented my hair and drew lovely curlicues all over my title page.

Hot on the heels of my Mitchell swoon, I’ve been reading reviews of the new Philip Roth novel, due out early next month. I was initially nervous that Everyman might be a little too much of a medical biography; which is to say, a little too close for comfort (because really, the last thing I need at this point is arguably the greatest living American novelist stealing what little thunder I may have), but the more I read about it, the clearer it becomes that he focuses on the fatal types of anatomical adventures, rather than the merely serious and ugly-making types that seem to be my genre.

Nevertheless, I am pretty excited about a whole book full of his hospital descriptions and ruminations on the frailty of the flesh. Nothing says Hello Spring! to me like a long bitter treatise on the brutality of physical decrepitude and inevitable death. It occurs to me that under certain circumstances, I have just enough awfulness in me that I could BE Philip Roth if in addition to my body obsession I also had literary genius and a ruthless, insatiable cock. I count myself at least a little bit lucky that I have neither, I think. A good book season, anyway.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Failure of the Day: Off

I have to say, I’ve just about had it with people who kill themselves with my commute. This morning was number five for the year and it’s only April. Technically, I think only four of them were purposeful suicides…the one before last was just someone who had wandered into the path of an oncoming locomotive by virtue of apparently having no central nervous system whatsoever. I can’t comprehend the level of difficulty involved in being hit by a train by accident. They are deafeningly loud and so large that their approach shakes the ground hard enough to make rocks the size of my fists bounce like jumping beans.

I have no issue with folks who want to kill themselves—hey, knock yourselves out—but if you really need to throw yourself in front of a train, could you not do it at rush hour? There are trains at noon, too, you know, and they go just as fast between stops as the bullet does.

On the plus side, not being able to go into work today meant that our plan of finding a way to work from home occasionally would be put to its first test. So far, it’s working out nicely, although I would much rather have gone into the office today. Chris is in Reno at a conference until Saturday, and being cooped up alone all day was what drove me out of full-time telecommuting to begin with. Good thing I have dinner plans tonight or I’d be back to the full-scale psychosis that comes from a complete lack of human interaction.

In the meantime, tell your friends and neighbors: suicide between noon and 3 only, please. I'm sorry you hate your life, but ruining my commute won't solve anything.