Book Review Failure

Failure-who knew it could be so fun!

Things are in transition here and lots of great things are happening!  In typical form I have opted to post something a little different today on the RC. The next interview is going to be awesome and will be up in a week or two so stick around!  This week I am featuring  a quick review of a wickedly fun (in a rubbernecking sort of way) book that I ran across while digging for material about rejection.

When I set out to work through the problem of rejection I looked long and hard for resources to cite-like any good recovering academic worth their salt would do.  Lacking the discovery of really great content to source that would demystify rejection I tried searching other terms and came up with this little gem of a book, The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure.  While rejection and failure may be considered siblings, I do not see them as twins and therefore was not searching for failure, per se, but when this showed up in my search results I couldn’t resist!

The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure
The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure


This cheeky little tome, edited by C. D. Rose and published by Melville House, is filled with account after account of missteps, bungles, oversights, bad judgement and miss placed manuscripts.  I knew before I completed the introduction that this was going to be a page turner of the best sort of slow motion, train wreck sort of way. From quoting Guy Debord to the truth of schadenfreude, the wit and savvy with which editor C. D. Rose pulled together these 52 tales of authorial woe made this a pure guilty pleasure read for me.

The BDLF is based on a year long blog experiment in which Rose and a team of researches published one essay a week  that focused on a different author and his or her ignominious almost but not quite grasp at literary fame. The documented failures ranged in scope from the deeply conceptual (think along the lines of blank pages or writing while rowing) to sheer bungling at every turn. In fact, I had a couple of out loud “no way!” moments because I found it hard to comprehend that so many wrong turns could happen to a single person followed by a punch line of and then they died.

Perhaps my favorite ‘failure’ is the tale of Veronica Vass who wrote in code so dense and complex that the likes of Alan Turing would be hard pressed to unravel. In fact, Vass is portrayed as being a contemporary and acquaintance of Mr. Turing which may have been the ultimate downfall of her already less than stellar literary career.

I did begin to wonder as I went along if these could quite all be true. Reading through the essays I experienced a mixture of humor and disbelief at the layer of coincidence and connection that runs throughout the pages. Even the etchings pushed the envelope of believe-ability-author #7 bears a striking resemblance to an aged Edgar Allen Poe but it works for we will fittingly quote Mr. Burscough nevermore.

Without giving any more away I will end with a strong recommendation to give this petite compendium a read! I need to add that I am not paid for my opinions or representations regarding any reviews or recommendations in regards to this book.  I did receive a review copy* but views are my own and since I got a real kick out of this book I think you might as well.


And, after reading BDLF I am left with this question….

If a tree falls in the forest will the words not written on the pages not made from said tree comprise some of the best literature never penned?


*My thanks go out to Melville House for sharing BDLF with me and for the opportunity to share it with others!


P.S. See what else I’ve been up to this week…I was featured on Midlife Boulevard!

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