The Journal of Failure – Week 21 of 2020

Week 21 of 2020 – 27 May to 2 June 2020



  • Goal – 100 / day, or 700 / week
  • Achieved – 831/700 – Success!

Writing – I Remember

  • Goal – 14 / week
  • Achieved – 4/14 – Failure!

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

  • Goal – 3.5 minutes / day or 24.5 minutes / week
  • Achieved – 38 minutes – Success!

Writing – Large Projects

  • Goal – 5 minutes / day or 35 minutes / week
  • Achieved – 1 hour and 5 minutes – Success!

Getting myself out there

  • Short story reviews – Zero (Five 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)


Week 21!

Yeah so I forgot to do Week 20.  I have all of the cool interesting notes for the week, but the time has passed now so let’s just say I failed to report.

First things first – Black Lives Matter, the current protests have my full and total support, and as a white Australian I don’t really need to comment much beyond that.  Australia has its own horrible history and present to which I am somewhat accountable for.  I am not American so all I can say is that the Federal Government is wrong, the police are wrong, the State governments are wrong, and the people are right.  They are owed their due and deserve the fairness which they have never received.  I am horrified by what I see.

In terms of writing, I finished up the first draft of a story.  I have been tinkering away at it for a little while now, and while the end is messily put together, it’s the end I want, just not written well enough yet.  So, a first draft.  I’m going to set it aside for another week and then go back to it.  In the interim, I have started another short story, this time about a woman in a mildly abusive relationship who likes to listen to the arguments of couples in her apartment building and create elaborate backstories as to how these conversations came about.  All while drinking herself to sleep each afternoon in an effort to avoid seeing her philandering husband come home smelling of women.  Fun!

Otherwise, a mild catastrophe.  I have been working, on and off, on a larger piece for a while now.  Perhaps two months.  Here and there. Not as much as I should, but sometimes.  It was about 8,000 words.  Yes, “was”.  Anyway, I have been reading Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, a book I love and admire, but haven’t read in a couple of years.  I made it through the first part, about the critics.  Good times.  I start the part about Amalfitano, and – the novel I’ve been working on is an exact copy.  An accidental copy, but an exact copy.  I almost couldn’t believe what I was reading.  I’d forgotten about the details of Amalfitano’s adventures, but the broad strokes were certainly replicated in the text I’d been writing.

What a blow!  What a blow.  Instead now I must realise that this is not a project with legs but a writing exercise.  The parts that have nothing to do with Amalfitano’s section can be excised and repurposed, perhaps, but the rest must go.

At any rate, this week I spent a touch over an hour working on a new piece.  I’m aiming for both a time and a word count goal.  600 words each day until it’s 60,000 words.  Rough and tumble and getting it out there on the page.  I can do it!  And, so far, I have.  It’s going well.  I don’t think I’ve copied anything (I shall read every book to determine whether I have).

I think that copying is an entirely valid method of creating art, and one that I enjoy employing on a sentence-level when I am stuck for what to do.  I think rewriting or repurposing old stories is just fine.  Wholesale (accidental) copying, not so much, but taking on the challenges posed by earlier authors is entirely fine.

Anyway, other than that, I read quite a bit, and managed to finish:

First up was Christa Wolf’s No Place on Earth.  This was an interesting novella, though I understand that it is not perhaps the best place to start with Wolf as it isn’t entirely indicative of her obsessions as a writer.  Nonetheless, there’s a lot to like here.  Two poets, one minor (to today’s world) and one not, discuss art, integrity, creativity, ambition, sexuality.  The forgotten poet is, hardly accidentally, the woman, while the male poet continues to possess glory today.  The majority of this novella is their conversation and thoughts around it, particularly hers.

After that, Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil.  I thought this had a fantastic opening and closing, but a sagging middle.  Perhaps because I was less enamoured with the grim, the muck, the tawdriness, the squalor?  I remain unable to properly comment upon poetry, but it is starting to open up to me.  I have a lot more to read before I feel comfortable giving too much of an opinion, but, here – this is very good.  I read a bilingual edition which I always find particularly fascinating, even when (in this case) I know virtually none of the language.

As some readers may have noticed, I am grinding away at poetry books.  I’ve read 11 this year, and perhaps 11 in my entire life before this.  I am trying to expand my horizons in this space and would love recommendations.  I own a fair bit, but I don’t really know where to start – English language only?  The towering monuments of art?  Easier, smaller works?  Advice welcome!

Then, Anatole France’s Balthasar.  Oh, dear me, no.  This is a collection of short stories, all of which are themed around myths and magic, the occult and religion.  Which, for me, is basically horrible and awful.  They feel like children’s stories in their tone, but the subject matter is adult, certainly.  I have an almost violent reaction to mystical works, works of myth, works of animalistic magic or dark forces.  Always have.  Streets run through my veins and skyscrapers reflect in my eyes.  I’m a city boy.

I like Patrick Modiano.  Like.  I read his works quite often (3 in 2020 so far, 2 in 2019, 3 in 2018), and I’ve always liked them.  I’ve never loved any individual work, but I think that the accumulation of books amounts to a very impressive whole.   He’s the kind of Nobel winner I can appreciate, but I don’t think he’s an eternal master by any stretch of the imagination (there are endless pieces on writers who should have, but didn’t win, and who did win, but shouldn’t have.  Needless to say I likely agree with them all).  Honeymoon is a fine book, like all of them, and I particularly appreciate his blend of memory, time, the fallibility of recollection, the fleeting nature of relationships.  I own 10 or 12 of his books and one day I think I’d like to just sit down and read them all – his work would, I believe, lend itself to such a treatment.

Lastly, Elvira Navarro’s A Working Woman.  It opens with a character in search of someone to go down on her while she’s on her period, and gets more outrageous and entertaining from there.  I really liked this book, and would recommend both it and everything the publisher (Two Lines Press) has put out.  They are on the cutting edge of avant-garde literature at the moment.  And, Enrique Vila-Matas himself has praised this novella, which is more than enough for me.  It’s sexy, it’s raw, it’s in-your-face, but it’s also sensitive and compassionate, and the narrator’s ability to examine herself suggests a great empathy for the human spirit.

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. 


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