Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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January 24, 2008
do believe i'm failing stronger every day

from Harold Rosenberg's essay "De Kooning: Painting Is a Way," in The Anxious Object:
Painting the "Woman" was a mistake. It could not be done. Esthetically, the canvas is an inadequate expression of the artist's experience and intention. Something similar has been said of Hamlet.

For authority for such a creation, which defies its medium, de Kooning could also turn to Balzac's "The Unknown Masterpiece," which then occupied his thoughts, or to Melville's Pierre or Moby Dick, of which their author said that he wished to create a work that would fail.

Where did Melville say this, exactly? I wonder.

There do seem to be Melville's words from Mardi: and a Voyage Thither (1849):
better to sink in boundless deeps, than float on vulgar shoals; and give me, ye gods, an utter wreck, if wreck I do.

His words there presaged by 1.35 centuries Beckett's Worstward Ho (.pdf) -- and its well-circulated excerpt, the last 6 wds being O they of many a would-be corporate cafeteria motivational poster and cubicle wall, but not so clear and clap-happy in the original:
All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

The logic here would seem to point towards a practice of increasingly self-aware and intentional failures
(hint: Rosenberg, at one point in his essay, calls each of de Kooning's paintings a "hypothesis")
     , though, presumably, the more surprising and temporarily puzzling to the failor, the more interesting and better
                                            (or "worse").

There's no success like it, indeed.