cover image Failure: An Autobiography

Failure: An Autobiography

Joshua Gidding, . . Cyan, $24.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-1-9057-3621-8

With an eye-catching title and an introductory chapter in which academic and freelance writer Gidding (The Old Girl ) promises "a case study, written by the case itself" in failure, this seems at first to be something more than a typical autobiography. But what Gidding actually delivers is an unrelentingly depressing account of his many self-proclaimed failures, each given its own excruciatingly detailed chapter, beginning with "The Failure of My Childhood," in which he bemoans his failure "to have an 'authentic childhood' " growing up in "privileged" Pacific Palisades, Calif. His other self-flagellations include admitting shame at not being admitted into Harvard; arguing that he never published a second novel because the writing and selling was "all too easy"; and halfheartedly claiming that his current "academic mediocrity" is really the stance of an "anti-academic academic." The only bright light in his story is his loving wife, Diane, who puts up with Gidding even as she is dying of cancer. But Gidding's confessional turns from tedious to annoying after he admits to being a "virtual adulterer" during her illness by flirting with an old girlfriend through instant messages, and then blames his actions on the "sexual possibilities" of the Internet. (May)