The Journal of Failure – Week 16 of 2020

Week 16 of 2020 – 22 April to 28 April 2020

Goals

Reading

  • Goal – 100 / day, or 700 / week
  • Achieved – 1,177/700 – Success!

Writing – I Remember

  • Goal – 14 / week
  • Achieved – 13/14 – Failure!

Writing – Small Projects (Fragments, short stories, etc)

  • Goal – No goal this week, friends

Writing – Large Projects

  • Goal – No goal this week, friends

Getting myself out there

  • Short story reviews – Zero (Zero total for the year)
  • Submissions – Zero (Zero total for the year)
  • Rejections – Zero (Zero total for the year)
  • Acceptances – Zero (Zero total for the year)

Commentary

Week 16!

The last two weeks I have focused entirely on reading.  It’s been a hell of a time, what with the Coronavirus, but here we are.  Like many people, the first couple of weeks at home were spent addled with wine and fear, which resulted in very little that was good.

But times have changed.  Or, they haven’t, and I have become accustomed to what we constantly hear referred to as the ‘new normal’.  Lucky us, lucky all?

Last week I read 902 pages, and this week, 1,177.  I am woefully behind where I’d like to be for the year, but these two weeks have helped.  I decided to do nothing more than read, read, read.  And so I did.  There were a few failures here and there (I have, for some reason, purchased and started playing Persona 5 Royal), but by and large I read widely and well.

I read

  • Guy de Maupassant’s Pierre and Jean (trans. Leonard Tancock)
  • Andrés Barba’s Such Small Hands (trans. Lisa Dillman)
  • Albert Camus’ The Plague (trans. Stuart Gilbert)
  • Holly Watson’s Never Seen the Sea
  • Mari Saat’s The Saviour of Lasnamäe (trans. Susan Wilson)
  • Jose Saramago’s All the Names (trans. Margaret Jull Costa)

Along with some other bits and pieces of books I didn’t finish.

Not too bad.  Five of six were translated, which is about where I’d like the ratios to land.

Such Small Hands is a bit of an incredible feat of literary horror, and I recommend it for anyone who doesn’t have a small daughter between the age of zero and six.  After that, sure, go for it.  But if you do – traumatic stuff.  You’ll never look at a doll the same way…

All the Names remains the Saramago novel I feel the fondest towards.  It is his most human, I think, and is very sensitive to loneliness and the dull glow of feeling for one’s fellow man.  It’s too long, I think, but not by much.  10 pages, maybe 20, cut from around the middle, and it’d be a perfect novel to smash a frozen heart.

The Saviour of Lasnamäe managed to be a novel about a woman becoming a prostitute without, you know, wallowing in what it means for a woman to become a prostitute.  I quite admire Saat’s courage in putting in place the steps by which a middle-aged woman becomes a prostitute and then…shifts the novel entirely to her daughter, who is pretty much unaware of this, and continues along with a reasonably conventional romance plot.  Very good, very good.

The others were fine.  Nothing in particular to say.

I’m halfway through Krasznahorkai’s Satantango.  Actually, nope, looking at it, I’m about two thirds of the way through.  I don’t care for this novel much.  Or, more accurately, I have been reading deliriously effusive praise for Mr. K for many years now, and this novel hasn’t done much for me.  Where I’m at, right now, on page 205-206, I am reminded quite positively by Wolfgang Hilbig’s Old Rendering Plant, but otherwise I’m left a bit cold.  It’s…fine?

I have, once again, started reading The Malazan Book of the Fallen, which is a fantasy series stretching out across 10 books and 10,000 or so pages.  Gardens of the Moon is the first one.  I usually stop midway through the second, or the third.  Will I press on this time?  I don’t know.  Fantasy nonsense can be a bit hard to swallow at times, but a dear friend of mine is so very fond of the series.  I shall do it for him.

I have too many books on the go, I am working from home which means podcasts spring eternal (I need more – please recommend).  My poor dog needs a bath and I never seem to have time or remember to do it until he lies underneath me, stinking of doggy goodness.  My daughter continues to speak like a three year old and yet she’s only one and a half.  My wife is stressed and tired and burning the candle at both ends because she is a school teacher (be nicer to school teachers).  And on and on it goes, and in a lot of ways I am the luckiest person in the world, because forcing me to sit surrounded by my books is what I would wish if I had the divine on my side.

Otherwise, I feel that my reading is secure and it is time now to write.  Not much, baby steps, work those muscles, but I need to do it.  I have broken a number of bad habits over the last two weeks, and I wish now to add in the good ones.  I am not overly concerned with achieving some kind of productive personality – how horribly middle class of me – but instead wish to become akin to the rustling of paper, to be a footnote for all of the books.  Just literature.  That’s all.

And that was my week of failure.

Each week I aim to provide an update on the Journal of Failure.  These reports are intended to provide an impetus for me to achieve as much as I should/more than I do, and also to provide a further ongoing record of my life, as it is. 

3 thoughts on “The Journal of Failure – Week 16 of 2020

    1. Hmmm, well, like I said, All the Names is his most human book, I think. It’s a really lovely examination of the importance of an ordinary person’s life, and the sadness and melancholy that comes with being lonely and somewhat out of sync with other people. It’s an examination on how recording and cataloguing people is both harmful and helpful, and speaks to the tenderness of forms and indexing (!). Saramago is wise and tender and empathetic to everyone. It’s a wonderful book, just wonderful.

      Krasznahorkai – I’m nearly done now, and honestly. Maybe he’s just not for me. I can’t see that changing. I have 25 pages to go. I don’t care for it. It isn’t bad, but it’s not for me. Not for me. And that’s ok.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

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