Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Failure Is Important, Too

I am once again playing catch-up with my on-line reading, on this occasion because of all the time I'm spending e-mailing with relatives about our various unhealthy family members. In fact, I just finished one e-mail and ought to try to do another before I finish up here. The number of decrepit Gauthiers and Gauthier connections is truly astonishing.

Surely I can do something with this material from my life. A kids' book, of course. A picture book, most definitely. And funny!

I did manage to read In Praise of Failure, a translation of Pierre Bayard's introduction to his book Comment améliorer les oeuvres ratées (How to Improve Failed Works). This piece is interesting for a couple of reasons.

1. The translator, Suzanne Menghraj, includes a very interesting "introduction to the introduction" in which she explains how she became interested in Bayard's works. Comment améliorer les oeuvres ratées doesn't appear to have been published in English, and Menghraj admits to being far from fluent in French. I find that...intriguing. Even admirable. She wanted to know his work so badly that she made what had to be a considerable effort to decode a language in which she, herself, was weak.

2. What Bayard has to say in his introduction relates, I think, to that old argument we keep having here on the Internet about literary criticism of those works that aren't one hundred percent perfect, that aren't hits. "...whereas perfect works, isolated by their completeness, hardly offer a hook on which to hang a critical thought, failed works offer insight into the intricate mechanisms of creation by which we might come to recognize the improbable alchemy that gives rise to great literature."

In short, it is important to discuss all types of literature, not just to promote what we, ourselves, like.

As Menghraj says, it's sometimes hard to tell if Bayard is one hundred percent serious in all he says, though his basic ideas are always thought-provoking.

Link from Blog of a Bookslut.

Training Report: Half a segment today and grateful to have got that far. Two yesterday.

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