Sunday, December 12, 2010

Five best novels about failure

Howard Jacobson's most recent novel, The Finkler Question, won this year's Man Booker Prize.

At the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of novels on failure. One title on the list:
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter
by Mario Vargas Llosa (1977)

'Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter" is a novel on a thousand errands, not the least of them a sort of spoofing of magic realism while reveling in its conventions. There is so much comic gusto in the spiraling decline of Pedro Camacho, a phenomenally successful writer of radio soap operas, that it is hard to remember that what we're watching is Camacho's mind "falling to pieces." The joy of the story lies in its brilliant confusion of Camacho's scripts, as overproduction (10 serials a day) leads him to forget which characters belong in which soap opera and each spills uncontrollably into the other. Camacho's hospitalization no more distresses us than his final demotion to the job of hack reporter. Call it callousness, but comic failure, too, must have its place. Especially when, in the telling, it has felt so much like creative success.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue