THE ART OF FAILING by Anthony McGowan


Email this review


A British fiction writer humorously chronicles the quotidian frustrations, discomforts, and outright failures he faced over the course of one year.

In this sometimes-scattershot but often hilarious collection, McGowan (Rook, 2017, etc.) recounts the details of his life as a husband, father, and North London writer. Organized as a series of titled journal entries, the narrative explores the strangeness and banality of everyday life and, in particular, its often laughable embarrassments. In “I Love You,” the author describes the unusual events that led him to accidentally put a banana on which he’d written “I love you” in front of a man sitting near him at the British Library. His eye ever on the bizarre, McGowan also tells the story of encountering his double in a dwarf who “propelled himself with crutches along the pavement, at high speed” and seemed to exist to offer the author a “cryptic message” he never actually delivered. In reflecting on his career as a writer, he recalls an interview he did with Anthony Burgess that “went like a dream” but ended in disaster when he later realized he had failed to turn on his tape recorder. McGowan’s family life is a rich source of material for his entries. Whether he is recounting his neighborhood adventures with Monty, a “dog blessed more with irascibility than intelligence,” musing at how he ever could have ended up with as sensible, successful, and beautiful a wife as his “Mrs. McG,” or wondering at the softness of his M&S woolen socks and whether they make him too “content with the state of the world,” McGowan always brings a quirky and refreshing perspective. Though the meandering plotlessness becomes irksome, the author’s delight in unearthing the overlooked pain points of everyday life and laughing at them makes up for the fractured, willy-nilly nature of the narrative.

Entertaining reading to dip into now and then.

Pub Date: Oct. 10th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-78607-182-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2017


NonfictionLITTLE FAILURE by Gary Shteyngart
by Gary Shteyngart
NonfictionSELF-INFLICTED WOUNDS by Aisha Tyler
by Aisha Tyler
NonfictionI DON'T HAVE A HAPPY PLACE by Kim Korson
by Kim Korson