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issue no. 6, winter 2001–2002
failure

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I'm never going to be famous. My name will never be writ large on the roster of Those Who Do Things. I don't do any thing. Not one single thing. I used to bite my nails, but I don't even do that any more.

~ Dorothy Parker


I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone.

~ Bill Cosby


So I was doing well academically, and I was a well-ranked tennis player and was the apple of my handsome father's eye—and then I would bring home a report card with a B-plus on it, and my parents would look at the report card as if I'd flunked. "Uh, honey?" one of them would ask, looking perplexed. "Now, this isn't a criticism but, if you could get a B-plus in philosophy, how much harder would it have been to get an A-minus?"

~ Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies


Sometimes I worry about being a success in a mediocre world.

~ Lily Tomlin


Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

~ Mark Twain


It serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard.

~ Dorothy Parker


What a silly thing love is! It is not half as useful as logic, for it does not prove anything and it is always telling one things that are not going to happen, and making one believe things that are not true.

~ Oscar Wilde


Situations have ended sad,
Relationships have all been bad.

~ Bob Dylan, "Lonesome When You Go"


The words were like fragments torn from his heart. With them came the hated vision of the house he was going back to—of the stairs he would have to go up every night, of the woman who would wait for him there. And the sweetness of Mattie's avowal, the wild wonder of knowing at last that all that had happened to him had happened to her too, made the other vision more abhorrent, the other life more intolerable to return to...

~ Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome


I figured if I called things might work out for awhile, and we might start dating. That part would be fun and might lead to other things, and that would be more than fun. And in time, maybe not too long of a time—because we were both in our fifties with the sense that there is less time to waste—we'd get married....And then a few years later things would start going downhill—they almost always do—and I'd wonder if the Coke in my lap and the lightning had been signs that we should have stayed apart. And she'd be wondering the same thing, and pretty soon we'd stop talking and laughing because we'd already said everything there was to say and nothing seemed funny any more....We'd end up in divorce court—yes, yes, look at the statistics!—and every time we ran into each other after that would be an embarrassment, a dark day we would want to forget.

Why take a chance? Run from the room, run up the steps, watch the ballgame on TV.

~ "Synchronicity," by Roger Hart


Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.

~ Homer Simpson


For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest of these: "It might have been!"

~ John Greenleaf Whittier, "Maude Muller"


Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look. That's the compassionate thing to do. That's the brave thing to do. We could smell that piece of shit. We could feel it; what is its texture, color, and shape?

We can explore the nature of that piece of shit. We can know the nature of dislike, shame, and embarrassment, and not believe there's something wrong with that. We can drop the fundamental hope that there is a better "me" who one day will emerge. We can't jump over ourselves as if we were not there.

~ Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart


You woke in the morning with the weight of doom on your head. You lay with eyes shut wondering why you dreaded the day; was it a debt, was it a lost love? —and then you remembered the nightmare....This was no time for beauty, for love, or private future....There was no future; everyone waited, marked time, waited. For what?

~ Dawn Powell, A Time to Be Born


If something is too hard to do, then it's not worth doing. You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your shortwave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle and we'll go inside and watch TV.

~ Homer Simpson


Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.

~ Albert Camus


Because even things that are eventually, in the end, pretty good—they usually don't get good until the last 10%, until 90% of the work is done. So in the first 90% of the work, it really is just, "How is this ever going to be anything but sucky?"

~ Ira Glass, in an interview with OtP


Over the last couple of years, the photos of me when I was a kid, the ones that I never wanted old girlfriends see...well, they've started to give me a little pang of something—not unhappiness, exactly, but some kind of quiet, deep regret. There's one of me in a cowboy hat, pointing a gun at the camera, trying to look like a cowboy but failing, and I can hardly bring myself to look at it now. Laura thought it was sweet (she used that word! Sweet, the opposite of sour!) and pinned it up in the kitchen, but I've put it back in a drawer. I keep wanting to apologize to the little guy: "I'm sorry, I've let you down. I was the person who was supposed to look after you, but I blew it: I made wrong decisions at bad times, and I turned you into me."

~ Nick Hornby, High Fidelity


Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

~ Samuel Beckett


"What we have here is...failure to communicate."

~ Cool Hand Luke (1967). written by Donn Pearce


Every time. You know why? I want to fail. I work like a dog for twenty years so I'll have the supreme pleasure of failing. Never knew anybody like that, did you? I'm very cunning. I plan it in advance. I fool myself right up to the last minute, and then the time comes and I know how cunningly I've been planning it all the time. I've been a failure all my life.

~ Wallace Stegner, "A Field Guide to Western Birds"


I suspect the fault...is in me: that I hate any job on earth, as a job and a hindrance and a semi-suicide.

~ James Agee


AARON:  No. I'm not really mad. I'll miss you, we'll talk, we'll always be friends...we'll get hot for each other every few years at dinner and never act on it, okay?

~ Broadcast News (1987) by James L. Brooks


I'm a w-w-worm man
Gonna crawl in a hole
Nobody's my friend
I'm no good to anyone
I want some dirt

~ Ramones, "Worm Man"


IRINA:  Oh, I'm so unhappy, I can't work anymore, I won't work anymore. I'm sick of it. I've had enough!...I'm almost twenty-four, I've been working all this time, and my brain has shriveled up, I've lost my looks, I've gotten old, and nothing, nothing! There's no satisfaction in any of it and the time passes and you realize you'll never have the beautiful life you dreamed of, you just keep digging yourself deeper and deeper into a hole....I'm in despair. I am really in despair. And I don't understand why I'm still alive, I should have ended it long ago.

~ Anton Chekhov, Three Sisters


There is not one good man on earth who does what is best and does not err.

~ Ecclesiastes


Cyril:  I was sure I was going to get that scholarship. My dad of course was sure I wasn't. When I didn't, he was real understanding, you know. He loves to do that. He loves to be understanding when I fail.

~ Breaking Away (1979), written by Steve Tesich


To choose ways of not acting was ever the concern and scruple of my life.

~ Fernando Pessoa (Portuguese poet)


Smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo
Now don't tell me I've nothing to do

~ Statler Brothers, "Flowers on the Wall"


The common idea that success spoils people by making them vain, egotistic, and self-complacent is erroneous; on the contrary, it makes them, for the most part, humble, tolerant, and kind. Failure makes people cruel and bitter.

~ W. Somerset Maugham


TERRY:  It wasn't him, Charley, it was you. Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, "Kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Wilson." You remember that? "This ain't your night"! My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn't have to take them dives for the short-end money.
CHARLEY:  Oh, I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.
TERRY:  You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you, Charley.

~ On The Waterfront (1954), written by Budd Schulberg


Our doubts are traitors
And make us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt.

~ Measure for Measure (Act I, Scene IV)


Mike Damone:  I can see it all now, this is gonna be just like last summer. You fell in love with that girl at the Fotomat, you bought forty dollars worth of fuckin' film, and you never even talked to her. You don't even own a camera.

~ Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), by Cameron Crowe


Nothing is more humiliating than to see idiots succeed in enterprises we have failed in.

~ Gustave Flaubert

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