Failure [NOOK Book]


This superb Pulitzer Prize–winning collection gives voice to failure with a wry, deft touch from one of this country’s most engaging and uncompromising poets. In Failure, Philip Schultz evokes the pleasures of family,marriage, beaches, and dogs; New York City in the 1970s; revolutions both interior and exterior; and the terrors of 9/11 with a compassion that demonstrates he is a master of the bittersweet and fierce, the wondrous and direct, and the brilliantly provocative. Filled with poems of "heartbreaking ...
See more details below

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.49 price
(Save 24%)$13.95 List Price


This superb Pulitzer Prize–winning collection gives voice to failure with a wry, deft touch from one of this country’s most engaging and uncompromising poets. In Failure, Philip Schultz evokes the pleasures of family,marriage, beaches, and dogs; New York City in the 1970s; revolutions both interior and exterior; and the terrors of 9/11 with a compassion that demonstrates he is a master of the bittersweet and fierce, the wondrous and direct, and the brilliantly provocative. Filled with poems of "heartbreaking tenderness that [go] beyond mere pity" (Gerald Stern), Failure is a collection to savor from this major American poet.

Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Philip Schultz’s language reminds me of such modern masters as Isaac Rosenberg and Hart Crane. It’s one thing I’ve always admired in his poetry; that and a heartbreaking tenderness that goes beyond mere pity and that is so present in Failure. It’s as if he bears our pain."—Gerald Stern, winner of the National Book Award

"Philip Schultz’s poems have long since earned their own place in American poetry. His stylistic trademarks are his great emotional directness and his intelligent haranguing—of god, the reader, and himself. He is one of the least affected of American poets, and one of the fiercest."—Tony Hoagland

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547539379
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/6/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 612,331
  • File size: 78 KB

Meet the Author

PHILIP SCHULTZ won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for his most recent book of poems, Failure. His poetry and fiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, the Nation, the New Republic, and the Paris Review, among other magazines. In addition, he is the founder and director of the Writers Studio in New York.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

It’s Sunday Morning in Early November
and there are a lot of leaves already.
I could rake and get a head start.
The boys’ summer toys need to be put
in the basement. I could clean it out or fix the broken storm window.
When Eli gets home from Sunday school,
I could take him fishing. I don’t fish
but I could learn to. I could show him how much fun it is. We don’t do as much as we used to do. And my wife, there’s so much I haven’t told her lately,
about how quickly my soul is aging,
how it feels like a basement I keep filling with everything I’m tired of surviving.
I could take a walk with my wife and try to explain the ghosts I can’t stop speaking to.
Or I could read all those books piling up about the beginning of the end of understanding . . .
Meanwhile, it’s such a beautiful morning,
the changing colors, the hypnotic light.
I could sit by the window watching the leaves,
which seem to know exactly how to fall from one moment to the next. Or I could lose everything and have to begin over again. 
Talking to Ourselves
 A woman in my doctor’s office last week
couldn’t stop talking about Niagara Falls,
the difference between dog and deer ticks,
how her oldest boy, killed in Iraq, would lie with her at night in the summer grass, singing
Puccini. Her eyes looked at me but saw only the saffron swirls of the quivering heavens.
Yesterday, Mr. Miller, our tidy neighbor,
stopped under our lopsided maple to explain
how his wife of sixty years died last month of Alzheimer’s. I stood there, listening to his longing reach across the darkness with each bruised breath of his eloquent singing.
This morning my five-year-old asked himself why he’d come into the kitchen. I understood
he was thinking out loud, personifying himself,
but the intimacy of his small voice was surprising.
When my father’s vending business was failing,
he’d talk to himself while driving, his lips silently moving, his black eyes deliquescent.
He didn’t care that I was there, listening,
what he was saying was too important.
“Too important,” I hear myself saying
in the kitchen, putting the dishes away,
and my wife looks up from her reading
and asks, “What’s that you said?” 
I turned sixty in Paris last year.
We stayed at the Lutetia,
where the Gestapo headquartered
during the war, my wife, two boys, and me,
and several old Vietnamese ladies carrying poodles with diamond collars.
Once my father caught a man stealing cigarettes out of one of his vending machines.
He didn’t stop choking him until the pool hall stunk of excrement and the body dropped to the floor like a judgment.
When I was last in Paris
I was dirt poor, hiding from the Vietnam War.
One night, in an old church,
I considered taking my life.
I didn’t know how to be so young and not belong anywhere, stuck among so many perplexing melodies.
I loved the low white buildings,
the ingratiating colors, the ancient light.
We couldn’t afford such luxury.
It was a matter of pride.
My father died bankrupt one week before his sixtieth birthday.
I didn’t expect to have a family;
I didn’t expect happiness.
At the Lutetia everyone dressed themselves like specimens
they’d loved all their lives.
Everyone floated down
red velvet hallways
like scintillating music
you hear only once or twice.
Driving home, my father said,
“Let anyone steal from you and you’re not fit to live.”
I sat there, sliced by traffic lights,
not belonging to what he said.
I belonged to a scintillating and perplexing music
I didn’t expect to hear. 
The Summer People
Santos, a strong, friendly man,
who built my wife’s sculpture studio,
fixed everything I couldn’t,
looked angry in town last week.
Then he stopped coming. We wondered
if we paid him enough, if he envied us.
Once he came over late to help me catch a bat with a newspaper and trash basket.
He liked that I laughed at how scared I got.
We’re “year rounds,” what the locals call summer people who live here full time.
Always in a hurry, the summer people honk a lot,
own bigger cars and houses. Once I beat a guy in a pickup to a parking space, our summer sport.
“Lousy New Yorker!” he cried.
Every day now men from Guatemala, Ecuador,
and Mexico line up at the railroad station.
They know that they’re despised,
that no one likes having to share their rewards,
or being made to feel spiteful.
When my uncle Joe showed me the shotgun he kept near the cash register to scare the black migrants
who bought his overpriced beer and cold cuts
in his grocery outside of Rochester, N.Y.,
his eyes blazed like emerald suns.
It’s impossible to forget his eyes.
At parties the summer people who moved here after 9/11
talk about all the things they had to give up.
It’s beautiful here, they say, but everything
is tentative and strange,
as if the beauty isn’t theirs to enjoy.
When I’m tired, my father’s accent scrapes my tongue like a scythe.
He never cut our grass or knew what grade I was in. He worked days,
nights, and weekends, but failed anyway.
Late at night, when he was too tired to sleep,
he’d stare out the window so powerfully
the world inside and outside our house would disappear.   
In Guatemala, after working all day,
Santos studied to be an architect.
He suffered big dreams, his wife said.
My wife’s studio is magnificent.
We’d hear him up there in the dark,
hammering and singing, as if
he were the happiest man alive.

Copyright © 2007 by Philip Schultz
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

It’s Sunday Morning in Early November    1
Talking to Ourselves    2
Specimen    3
The Summer People    5
The Magic Kingdom    7
Louse Point    9
The Idea of California    11
Kodak Park Athletic Association, 1954    14
Grief    15
The Absent    16
My Dog    17
The Garden    18
Exquisite with Agony    19
Bronze Crowd:
  After Magdalena Abakanowicz    21
Why    23
My Wife    25
Husband    27
Uncle Sigmund    28
The Amount of Us    30
What I Like and Don’t Like    31
Blunt    32
Shellac    34The Adventures of 78 Charles Street   36
Isaac Babel Visits My Dreams    39
Dance Performance    41
The Traffic    43
The Truth    45
The One Truth    46
Failure    48
The Wandering Wingless    50
Acknowledgments    105

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2013

    Strong arm

    Well it is your lucky day i have to go.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2013



    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2012

    Interesting poetry/

    Poetry is different from what I usually like, but it is well done.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)