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.


  • At May 22, 2006 8:58 PM, Blogger Josh said…

    Hi, Nancy. What a great idea for a blog! On a topic that is close to my heart. (I did a search for "failure" on Blogger and your blog came up.) But more of that anon, when my own blog is up and running. (I am an utter neophyte to the blogosphere, though, so you will have to bear with me.)

    On the topic of Philip Roth -- I too am a great admirer of his, though I have to say that EVERYMAN is far from my favorite book of his. (That would have to be..let's see, that's a hard one, there are so many. AMERICAN PASTORAL, SABBATH'S THEATER, OPERATION SHYLOCK are all up there. THE HUMAN STAIN and THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA not far behind. You get the picture.)

    Not at all familiar with David Mitchell, though now I will have to look into him. And it's very, very odd that I should read your blog mentioning him just now, because no more than an hour ago my son, who works in a bookstore, mentioned that he was going through the special orders database and found that his mother, my wife Diane, who died two years ago, had ordered a book by David Mitchell. Very, very odd indeed.

    So I will leave you with that mystery for the moment, and meanwhile will be exploring your blog as I set up my own on the same topic (a vastly neglected one, in my opinion). Looking forward to reading more.


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