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Failure Hardcover – November 5, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The careful, compassionate sixth outing from Schultz (Living in the Past) reverses the plot many poetry books imply. Rather than show an emotional problem (in the first poems) followed by its gradual solution, Schultz begins with warm, even heartwarming, short depictions of love, marriage, fatherhood, and mourning, in which even the elegies find reasons to love life. Schultz addresses the deceased poet David Ignatow: "I didn't go/ to your funeral, but, late at night, I/ bathe in the beautiful ashes of your words." As a reader moves through the volume, and especially in "The Wandering Wingless"- the sequence whose 58 segments and 54 pages conclude the book\-Schultz's gladness gives way to regret and grim fear. Devoted (like several of Schultz's short poems) to the virtues of dogs and of dog-ownership, and to the horrors of September 11, "Wingless" meanders through the poet's own depression and his young adult life before settling on his continuing grief for his unstable, suicidal father. "Why/ did Dad own, believe in,/ admit to, understand/ and love nothing?" It is a question no poet could answer, though Schultz sounds brave, and invites sympathy, as he tries. The clear, even flat, free verse suggests Philip Booth, though Schultz's Jewish immigrant heritage, and his attachment to New York City, place him far from Booth's usual rural terrain. Few readers will find his language especially varied or inventive; many, however, could see their own travails in his plainly framed, consistently articulated sorrows and joys.
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Review

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR FAILURE
 
"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
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (November 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151015260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151015269
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,880,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Let me say from the get-go that the risky title of this book works better than I could ever have expected. Rather than being a failure, Philip Schultz's fifth book-length collection - his sixth if you count his superb chapbook, "My Guardian Angel Stein" (1986) - illuminates the dim recesses of what it means to be a failure. But this new book does so in a brilliantly successful way. Take Schultz's poems about his hapless father.

In previous collections Schultz's portraits of his dad abound with plenty of pathos. In the title poem of his new book, Schultz makes the distinction between a nobody - "You can't remember / a nobody's name, that's why / they're called nobodies" - and a true failure: "Failures are unforgettable." Schultz then proceeds to catalogue and commemorate his father's business failures: "a parking lot that raised geese, / a motel that raffled honeymoons, / a bowling alley with roving mariachis." I find Samuel Schultz's business schemes as hilarious as anything I've heard in the annals of down-and-outers. More than ever before, Schultz's remembrance of things past takes on epic perspective. The poems in "Failure" will hardly ever fail to succeed in bringing you to tears, or such gales of laughter you might as well be listening to one of the greatest stand-up tragi-comic artists of our time.

The book's cover photo of a bent nail that's been hammered into wood badly - unsuccessfully - suggests the offbeat - bent out of shape? - funny-sad Eastern European sensibility of someone like Isaac Babel, who stated, "We're all failed sentences. . . / one big lopsided family of relative clauses / who agree on nothing, whose only subject is / how we came to be us, despite our passion for / knowledge, especially while we were still alive.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My determination for liking a poem is whether it makes me see or feel a subject in a new or unique way. Philip Shultz succeeds in doing this in the majority of his offerings for this collection--the ironic title not withstanding. There is also a coziness in many of the pieces that settles nicely over one as the poems are read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's safe to judge this book of poems by its cover. I laughed the second I opened the amazon.com box and saw it. How interesting to make the image on the cover of a poetry book one of its best metaphors? Failure is a mishammered, unrestorably bent nail. The reason this metaphor is apt enough to speak for the whole is that it perfectly matches the tone of Schultz's brilliant collection: it is simultaneously witty, creative, and starkly tragic. I have to admit: for the first five or so of Schultz's poems, I had trouble understanding how this book won the Pulitzer Prize. The beginning poems aren't at all bad; they're just...fine. They leave you thinking that Schultz is a good storyteller, that he has a pretty good eye, but that his facility with language is just average. But then the magic starts. Beginning with the poem, "My Wife," through the remaining 15 poems of the collection, Schultz is on fire. When I read books of poetry, I usually rate each one with a number of checks, 1-4 so that if I choose to go back and read again, I can remember which ones I found moving. I gave ALL of these poems either three or four checks. One of the most brilliant parts of the book is the way that Schultz mirrors and repeats word choices or images between poems in an increasingly effective fashion until that repetition culminates in the last very long poem, "The Wandering Wingless." This poem serves as the book's "thesis statement" if you will, as it sets forth all of the things the author (and his father who haunts this collection) believes and doesn't believe. I read one review in which a critic said that this book takes the opposite form of most poetry collections in that it begins with the "answer" to life, but then devolves by the end fully into the "problem." I would agree with that.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Ok, how not to start with the end of the line from Beckett. Failure is a beautiful collection of poems. The first ones sneak up on you, like the flakes of a season's first snow, dislked but then stunning in their magic. Failure creeps into all aspects of Schultz's life, in his relationships, in his thoughts, in his actions. Nothing is good enough it seems, but can that in itself be beauty? Can that be good enough? "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." Schultz plays with simple words and simple phrases, striving for straight emotions but ending up peripherally skirting them -- but this gives the poems strength by way of the contrast of phraseology and semantic content. The final poem is a long meditation on dog walking and life and death. "I don't know how to proceed,/ I said, I never knew/ because/ it hurts so bad.//Yes it does, he said,/ Yes, indeed." Tinged by melancholy and loss, the poems are shining gems. Don't fail to get a copy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This work is very touching, deep, serious, human and beautiful.
The stories and characters are greatly depicted.
We all have failures. This book is a success in taking them up.
I am very impressed by it!!
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