Wrapped Around Kebabs

Alexander Oliver, Review of The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure, by C.D. Rose, The Literary Review 5 March 2015:

As Andrew Gallix writes in his introduction, “Manuscripts and books remain blank to us through being censored, lost, drowned, shredded, pulped, burned, used as cigarette paper or wrapped around kebabs, fed to pigs or even ingested by their own authors… Marta Kupka produces a blank memoir, not of her own volition, but due to a potent combination of failing eyesight and dried-up typewriter ribbon”.

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Bias, She Wrote

Clara Chow, “Bias, She Wrote,” The Strait Times 13 October 2015

I have no answer to those questions, nor am I sure if this comparison is fair. But the controversy has convinced me of one thing at least: that we never read innocently — that is, without consuming the writer’s identity in some way. As Andrew Gallix wrote in his introduction to the satirical Biographical Dictionary Of Literary Failure: “Literary biography is a by-product of literature: the writer’s life is read, à rebours, in the light of her works.”

Conversely, one might read a writer’s work differently, after finding out something particularly intriguing or unsavoury about her life. We are always reading with or against the grain of who we think the writer is. In submitting my own fiction to international journals, I always state in the first line of my cover letter that I am a writer from Singapore. The off-chance that an overseas editor might find my nationality interesting, I admit, factors in that decision.

Misreadings

Jamie Fisher, “A Patron Saint for Sadsacks: What Snark Says About Failure — and What Literature Says Back,” Los Angeles Review of Books 10 June 2015

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… In his introduction to the BDLF, Andrew Gallix suspects “that there is indeed a touch of Schadenfreude about the pleasure derived from reading these anecdotes of writerly woe.” There’s a name for this pleasure, and this narrative tradition: It’s snark. …

… Gallix’s introduction suggests that in writing the BDLF, Rose “may have been exorcising some demons of his own.” …

… Gallix places Rose’s work alongside any number of famous literary silences in the face of imperfection: “Rimbaud’s renunciation of poetry …, the Dada suicides, Wittgenstein’s coda to the Tractatus, the white paintings of Malevich or Rauschenberg, Yves Klein’s vacant exhibitions, as well (of course) as John Cage’s mute music piece.” Gallix describes the appeal of “absolute whiteness,” untrammeled potential.

This is true enough, in its way; any artist has coped with those moments of paralyzing uncertainty, when silence or irony seem better than wreckage. But Gallix’s misreading of Cage is, I think, telling. Cage intended the vacancy of the work to supply a stage for the ambient environment. His point wasn’t that art is incapable of speech, or that the artist has, finally, nothing to say. His intention was to draw a circle around a small section of public life and say, All that is inside this circle is art. It’s a circle of reception, an announcement that he is willing to listen. When Gallix calls Cage’s piece “mute,” he fails to understand that it is a stage for the people, and the experiences, we don’t usually choose to hear. …

Those Who Never Achieved Greatness

Stuart Kelly, “Stuart Kelly: Diversity Rules in Non-Fiction,” The Scotsman 13 December 2014

But my personal favourite in this genre [literary biography] has to be The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure, by CD Rose and Andrew Gallix, a glorious alphabetical compendium of those who never achieved greatness.

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Beautiful Losers

Julian Hanna, “Beautiful Losers,” Rev. of The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure by C. D. Rose, 3:AM Magazine 11 December 2014

The introduction, a brilliant extended meditation on ‘real’ failure by 3:AM’s own co-editor-in-chief Andrew Gallix, complements the fictional failures that follow.
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Glorious Failure

Keith Watson, Rev. of The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure by C. D. Rose, failure magazine November 2014

The BDLF is a clever put-on, a brisk stroll through Borges’s Library of Babel guided by Rose’s fastidious prose and copious literary references, but it is also a clarion for the infinite possibilities of literature. As Andrew Gallix observes in his introduction, “Writing about fictitious or lost works is a means of holding literature in abeyance, of preserving its potentiality.” Rose’s failures are also potential successes, each one a small recognition that the actuality of literature will never equal its potentiality. Reading Ulysses will never quite match the idea of reading Ulysses. And in that sense, all literature, no matter how great, is a glorious failure.

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