Part of the answer to why poetry exists, why novels exists, why writers write anything, lies in the inherent failure of language. Vanessa Place famously said, “Language always fails. But how horrible would it be if it were to succeed, how constraining that would be.” There is more on failure and novels in this previous article here, but too, perhaps the book itself exists as an evidence of failure, that relinquishing of everything into something.
And the thing is: it is a book. That’s what a book is: a failed attempt that, its failure notwithstanding, is sincere and hard-worked and expunged of as much falseness as he could manage, given his limited abilities, and has thus been imbued with a sort of purity.
A book doesn’t have to do everything, I remember saying to myself back then, as a form of consolation; it just has to do something.
— George Saunders, The Paris Review
I have no problem with failure – it is success that makes me sad. Failure is easy. I do it every day, I have been doing it for years. I have thrown out more sentences than I ever kept, I have dumped months of work, I have wasted whole years writing the wrong things for the wrong people. Even when I am pointed the right way and productive and finally published, I am not satisfied by the results. This is not an affectation, failure is what writers do. It is built in.
I still have this big, stupid idea that if you are good enough and lucky enough you can make an object that insists on its own subjective truth, a personal thing, a book that shifts between its covers and will not stay easy on the page, a real novel, one that lives, talks, breathes, refuses to die. And in this, I am doomed to fail.
— Anne Enright, The Guardian
To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short.
No, this is the paradox for me: in failure alone is there any possibility of success. … There may be, as Bob Dylan says, no success like failure, but far from failure being no success at all, in its very visceral intensity, it is perhaps the only success there is.
— Will Self, The Guardian
When I was young, I didn’t feel the sanctity of birth. I tended to consider birth as the starting point of a journey toward failure, and I’d sadly look out the window for days on end into this grey light that was all that had been given to me.
— László Krasznahorkai, The Quarterly Conversation