When writers admit to failures they like to admitto the smallest ones - for example, in each of my novels somebody"rummages in their purse" for something because I was too lazy andthoughtless and unawake to separate "purse" from its old, persistentfriend "rummage".
In a town that suffers from economic distance diffusion, excess infrastructure for failing commodities, and imbalanced capital interests possessed by a single proprietor, staying in one place can make one so accustomed to their surroundings that they forget how horrible their lifestyle is....
Western missionary attempts to convert Muslims were a multi-generational, abject failure. They worked against the seed of the Christian religion within the Muslim world itself, associating it with something foreign and “imperialist.” While the missionary enterprise in sub-Saharan Africa was more successful, little was achieved there, either. It was when Africans themselves took up the cause, that the Christian religion began to spread like wildfire: from less than a million to hundreds of millions in a few brief generations. And as Muslim loyalists decry, this wave keeps pushing northwards.
The more glitzy chain branches remain open, scattered through the city’s middle-class enclaves. Many of this world’s more famous bookstores have hollowed out in this way. Most started as serious publishers, more than a century ago. (Ferozsons began thus in the 1890s, and still publishes in English and Urdu.) They discover that selling other people’s books is more remunerative. The imprint gives the retail brand cachet; the store becomes a landmark. Then, with the metastasis of modern half-education, it opens those branches. It is a business model that has, only recently, begun to fail. The big main branch with its big overheads is first to close, then the little candles snuff one by one. For the chain stores are mere utilities; each carries the same shortlist of (mostly lurid) bestsellers, now available cheaper from Amazon. They become magazine shops, and coffee shops, and trinket shops, and anything but book shops. They hire people who know nothing about books. By the time they terminate, there seems no cause for mourning.
Literary success or failure, by this measure, depends notonly on the refinement of words on a page, but in the refinement of aconsciousness, what Aristotle called the education of the emotions.
My parents’ generation failed their children; we failed ours; our children are failing theirs — so far as they even get born. Only in this sense is progress real: a kind of progress towards the Hell-gates. Imagine where we’d be if God were not constantly intervening, in His unimaginably reactionary way.
That's why, in thepublic imagination, the confession "I did not tell the truth"signifies failure when James Frey says it, and means nothing at all if JohnUpdike says it.
Its purpose was to suggest that somewhere between a critic'snecessary superficiality and a writer's natural dishonesty, the truth of how wejudge literary success or failure is lost.
It is this intimate sideof literary failure that is so interesting; the ways in which writers fail ontheir own terms: private, difficult to express, easy to ridicule, completelyunsuited for either the regulatory atmosphere of reviews or the objectiveinterrogation of seminars, and yet, despite all this, true.