The Failure

The Failure

4.3 3
by James Greer
     
 

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The Failure is a picaresque novel set in Los Angeles about two guys who conceive and badly execute a plan to rob a Korean check-cashing store in order to finance the prototype for an impossibly ridiculous Internet application.

"James Greer, one of the nimblest and most multilayered American fiction writers, has, with his latest novel The Failure,

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Overview


The Failure is a picaresque novel set in Los Angeles about two guys who conceive and badly execute a plan to rob a Korean check-cashing store in order to finance the prototype for an impossibly ridiculous Internet application.

"James Greer, one of the nimblest and most multilayered American fiction writers, has, with his latest novel The Failure, pulled off a sublime and shivery-smooth literary hat-trick-cum-emotional-gotcha. I defy anyone to come up with an equation to explain how this book's first impression as a ridiculously clever, funny crime story can gradually disclose a metanovel built from far more encyclopedic scratch only to reveal upon its conclusion a central, overriding thought so heartfelt literally it trembles your lower lip. This is one stunning piece of work." --Dennis Cooper, author of Ugly Man

"James Greer's The Failure is such an unqualified success, both in conception and execution, that I have grave doubts he actually wrote it."
--Steven Soderbergh

James Greer is the author of the novel Artificial Light (Akashic Books), which won a California Book Award for Best Debut Novel, and the nonfiction book Guided By Voices: A Brief History (Grove Press), a biography of the band for which he once played bass guitar. He is currently working with director Steven Soderbergh on a rock musical about Cleopatra starring Catherine Zeta-Jones. He lives in Los Angeles.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A robbery goes awry for a young L.A. slacker on a get-rich-quick scheme in Greer’s cleverly fashioned, flimsy second novel (after Artificial Light). Protagonist Guy Forget wants his square MIT professor brother, Marcus, to lend him the $50,000 he needs to build the prototype for his invention, a sophisticated information-mining computer system called Pandemonium, which will transform Guy into “a man with clout.” But Marcus can’t stand his brother and is still in competition with him for the approval of their father. Then Dad suddenly dies, and leaves Guy the exact amount he needs, but it’s too late to stop “Plan Charlie,” Guy’s harebrained plot to rob a Korean check-cashing service along with his dog-walker friend, Billy. The other characters getting in Guy’s way are his manipulative femme fatale new girlfriend, Violet, and her scheming jealous pursuer, Sven Transvoort. Greer creates emotional distance by cutting up the sequence of events so that chapters are not chronological and inserting self-conscious comments by the “not entirely omniscient but very reliable narrator.” Running gags render this suspense parody cheeky, experimentally cool, and not terrifically memorable. (Mar.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781933354972
Publisher:
Akashic Books
Publication date:
03/01/2010
Pages:
220
Product dimensions:
5.38(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.64(d)

Read an Excerpt

THE FAILURE


By James Greer

Akashic Books

Copyright © 2010 James Greer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-933354-97-2


Chapter One

HOW GUY FORGET ENDED UP IN A COMA

Guy Forget-careening across Larkin Heights in a stolen Mini Cooper-suffused with bloodlust and baring a grin full of teeth, failed to hear the polyphonic belling of his cell phone. This was a mistake, for two reasons.

Had he heard his phone, and answered the call, Guy would have learned three things: that his wealthy, boorish father had died of a heart attack; that his wealthy, boorish father's will had provided Guy with exactly enough cash, after taxes, to fund the prototype for Pandemonium; and that his wealthy, boorish father had included in his will a personal message for Guy to the effect that, despite their differences, and their less-than-communicative relationship over the years, Guy's wealthy, boorish father did, in his own unspectacular way, love his second son.

Had he heard and answered his phone, Guy would also have been distracted sufficiently from his murderous thoughts to lay off the accelerator, and would therefore have slowed down sufficiently to avoid the near-fatal collision awaiting him around the fourth curve of the bendy road down which he was driving too fast.

Because he did not hear or answer his phone, Guy Forget was in a coma from which he was not expected to recover. His surviving relatives-his mother Laura, tense, brittle-framed, already shaken by the recent death of her husband, who, even though she hated him, represented a kind of vital force that helped make sense of her life; and his older brother Marcus, balding, self-absorbed professor of theoretical physics at M.I.T., whose adherence to the code of abstraction respected by all professors of theoretical physics everywhere extended to forgetting, from time to time, his wife Constance's existence-were divided on the question of whether to pull Guy's plug and end what remained of his corporeal viability, or, to be plain, of himself.

Laura was a seriously lapsed Roman Catholic who felt a distinct unease at ending Guy's life "without at least asking him," as she put it to Marcus over coffee at the hospital commissary in Los Angeles.

-Mom, he's in a coma. That's the whole sort of coma issue, replied Marcus, patiently. He was used to treating everyone, especially his mother, as if they were children, and needed to have even the most basic concepts explained simply.

-People come out of comas.

-Not people with Guy's level of brain activity. Or inactivity, more precisely. He's a vegetable. There's nothing about Guy that makes him human anymore.

-Mrs. Sanderson said that she read about this one ...

-Mrs. Sanderson is not a doctor. People magazine is not, I'm pretty sure, a peer-reviewed medical journal.

-Those doctors don't get everything right. What about AIDS?

-What about AIDS?

-Well, they were wrong. It doesn't even exist.

-I'm sorry?

-It's like you live in a hole. You didn't hear about this?

-Mom, that's so utterly bizarre I'm going to refrain from comment.

-Saying that doesn't make it any less true.

-I suppose. In crazy world. Marcus reached across the table and wrapped his mother's tiny hands in his own, almost invisibly pale palms. -Whatever there was of Guy, his essence, has dispersed back into the universe. If it's any comfort, recent research has led some in the scientific community to believe that quantum consciousness exists independent of physical being-at very basic levels, on the Planck scale. In that sense-

-Marcus, interrupted Laura, I don't want to pull the plug. I just don't.

Marcus shrugged. -Okay. He looked at his watch. -I've still got time to catch the red-eye back to Boston. You staying, or ...

-God, no.

Chapter Two

INTRODUCTION OF THE VILLAIN SVEN TRANSVOORT, UNDISCLOSED LOCATION, SEVERAL WEEKS AFTER THE KOREAN CHECK-CASHING FIASCO

My name is Sven Transvoort. Obviously, that's not my real name, but it's the one everyone who knows me thinks is my real name. Reason: it's actually my real name. See? I lied! I do that a lot. I am an inherently trustworthy person. I am, in a word, villainous, and I don't have to explain myself to you, or anyone, because for all you know I may be one of Hegel's world-historical individuals who doesn't have to play by the rules. Like Napoleon. I have certain things in common with Napoleon. I'm not French, this much is true. Not a military strategist, or an army man of any sort. In fact, guns make me nervous. If guns didn't make me nervous, there would not be much to this story, in fact. Because guns make me nervous, I am forced instead to rely on my cunning. On my devious nature. On my villainy. I'm pretty sure Napoleon, from what I've read, possessed a certain devious streak. And there are, to this day, countries who consider him villainous.

Consider this my confession. I brought Guy down, you see, I pricked his pretty bubble. I don't feel guilty-but I do feel that if I don't say something I won't get the credit I deserve, if I don't speak up. The squeaky wheel gets the credit, or something, right? Am I right?

Guy didn't know me as Sven Transvoort, of course. He knew me by that name, but not as Sven Transvoort the guy who'd sell his own sister down the river for a nickel, whatever that means. He knew me as someone he trusted, which is to say he didn't know me at all. What kind of a fool would trust me? I wear a T-shirt with the name of a punk rock band called Reasonable Sleep five or six days out of the week. I have wild, curly dark hair, thick-lensed glasses, and a gut you can hide things in. Seriously. You can tuck three grapefruits in my belly fat, no problem.

On the other hand, I might be dangerously thin, a consequence of my ongoing battle with prescription painkillers that has no effect whatsoever on my work, on the quality of my work. I could be a computer engineer student at Caltech, also an artist, and while we're at it a gallery owner. It's just a little gallery, really just one room in Chinatown, but my loft space downtown is pretty sumptuous. Certainly more so than you'd expect from a student/artist/small-time gallery owner. Or maybe I'm none of these things. Maybe I'm a private detective. Or a cop. Or a jewel thief. Or a product of Heidegger's "question of being," which both he and I believe to be the central question of our time, and may explain everything about what happened to Guy Forget. Or nothing.

I am, whoever I am, a dangerous character. I am the last person you would suspect. But I am the first person you should avoid. I hated Guy Forget with intensity, with white heat and black magic. I hated him from the moment I laid eyes on him. I would have done anything to bring him down, and I did.

The fulfillment of a life's ambition is rarely so sweet as the anticipation of its fulfillment. I think that's a quote from the writer Fiat Lux, I don't know if you remember, the one who disappeared off the face of the earth a few years ago. Hardly anyone remembers her anymore.

What did Fiat Lux know? I used to wonder. I don't wonder anymore.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from THE FAILURE by James Greer Copyright © 2010 by James Greer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author


James Greer is the author of the novel Artificial Light (Akashic 2006), which won a California Book Award for Best Debut Novel, and the nonfiction book Guided By Voices: A Brief History (Grove Press 2006), a biography about a band for which he once played bass guitar. He is currently working with director Steven Soderbergh on a rock musical.

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