The success of The Failure by James Greer
The Failure is a hell of a book. Greer is a funny writer, a smart writer, and a talented synthesizer of contemporary life with an older kind of storytelling. It’s greatest success, though, is its chorus of voices.
The plot, briefly: Guy Forget has discovered a scheme to make money on the internet, but he needs start-up cash. Unable to secure it from family, he decides that, with his friend Billy, he will rob a Korean check cashing business.
Much of the book is dialogue, characters in conversation, with little scene setting beyond the précis masquerading as a chapter title at the beginning of each section. The book moves back and forth through time and location—the introductions for each paragraph are the signposts that put the writing that follows in context. With no moments to stop and look at the scenery, as it were, the weight of the novel is right there on the characters. The book is concerned with a different kind of location. The location of the relationships between its characters.
Guy and Billy are the book’s down-at-heel Abbott and Costello. Guy, like all great losers, considers himself moments away from the win that will change his life. Billy, his dim bulb partner-in-soon-to-be-disastrously-failed-crime.
Let me ask you a question: who do you think would win in a fight between a squirrel and a cat? said Guy.
-Depends on the cat, obviously, said Billy. -But in general the cat. I had a cat once, used to kill squirrels and bring them back to the house, as presents, or trophies, or something…
April 21st, 2010 / 6:51 pm