The Anatomy of Failure
Posted on February 22nd, 2013
The Scotsman has a review of an intriguing book by a Seattle-based author I hadn’t heard of: Joe Milutis. The book is Failure: A Writer’s Life, and it’s a spelunker’s journey down into the 99 percent of literature that never gets published. Sometimes that literature vanishes into obscurity, and other times these works find the light of day. Milutis leads us through that slush pile, from a crazed manifesto by an anthrax-attacker to the work of Abraham Lincoln Gillespie, an annoying crank who hounded James Joyce and Gertrude Stein and took stream of consciousness to new lows. Reviewer Stuart Kelly describes some of the other failed books Milutis excavates:
There is an outsider art quality to some of the projects described, such as the Digital Landfill website – you send your unwanted documents and images there, to be “composted” into Burroughs-style cut-ups – or Henry Darger’s The Book Of Weather Reports – a ten-year collation of the day’s weather. There’s also Joe Gould, known as Professor Seagull, a homeless man who claimed to be the author of the world’s longest book, The Oral History Of The World, memorably described by Joseph Mitchell as “a great hodgepodge and kitchen midden of hearsay, a repository of jabber, an omnium-gatherum of bushwa, gab, palaver, hogwash, flapdoodle and malarkey… the addled opinions of scores of park-bench oracles and gin-mill savants”. Unfortunately for those interested in such literary curios, it never actually existed.
Some day I’m going to write an essay on the greatest works of completely imaginary literature.
(Hyperlinks added to review excerpt are mine, hat tip to 3 Quarks Daily for the link to this review).