Letter to Failure
As is the case with God, I’ll address you by your title.
When I learned that you were putting out a magazine called Failure, I thought that I had finally found my niche. I read your manifesto with growing excitement. I quote from it: “Failure interests me more than success. Success is shallow; failure deepens one. A single resident of a Bowery flophouse has more to tell about life than a hundred Donald Trumps.” Nice words…
I’ve submitted three times and have gotten three form rejections, all with hurriedly scribbled comments. My last piece, “Forty-two Strikeouts in a Row,” was dismissed as “trivial.” One word! But how much it reveals of your character. Sad, that someone can’t recognize how a Little League experience can start a boy on a path that will, in a sense, have him forever whiffing away at life.
My first submission, “Me and the Stick Shift,” about my failure to learn to drive with one of those monstrous contraptions, received this comment: “Most cars have automatic now.” As if that had anything to do with the essence of my story (which was about manhood). Again, sad, that you’re in charge of things, can pass down these judgments from on high.
I’m heartened by what you do publish, what it reveals about you. One relationship story after another. And these pieces don’t even get to the truth. In your last issue a woman gives the unsavory details of her four failed marriages, but what she recounts are the failings of the men: alcoholic, controlling, abusive, emotionally cold. She’s fine! Just picks losers! Her piece gets published, but “Creamed by Blockbuster,” a moving account of how my small video store failed, earns a “We get so many of these we call them ‘Wal-Marts’.” You pass up the universal with a ho hum.
Though I’m sure you’d be entertained, I must deny you entry to the bedrooms of my life.
Have I been diminished by your rejections? Not one bit. In the realm of failure I’m like Einstein when faced with a math problem, Freud with a tic, Goodyear with an under-inflated tire. It is I who possess the authority.
By the way, what’s with the glossy paper? I notice the grants and endowments you receive, from New York society types who think charity is an excuse for a fancy party. I can imagine you working the room, wine glass in hand, clad in a turtleneck pullover and sporting an impressive beard (when all I can grow is a scraggly one). Failure? You haven’t a clue.
I’ll wind this up with a quote from a very great man: “You won’t have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore.” I won’t be submitting to you again. I recognize the humor in this — that I’ve failed to be published by Failure magazine. But there’s also a certain rightness to it, considering what the world is. What you are. So I can laugh about it with a sense of pride. Listen tonight and you may hear me; mute the TV, wait for the refrigerator to stop its hum; listen, you can hear me — or maybe it’s one of the multitude like me, laughing away in the night.